The Witness of Ancient Scholars Verifies the Septuagint’s Longer Chronology is What the Original Hebrew Revealed

Summary: Is the Bible’s chronology corrupted?  Did this corruption take place before the time of Christ? Or might it have happened after the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. when rabbis altered the Old Testament to hide the fact that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah?

Which Chronology is Correct? The Masoretic’s or the Septuagint’s?

Perhaps the strongest proof demonstrating the corruption of the Masoretic Text (MT) comes from an analysis of its chronology. In contrast to the majority view in Evangelicalism that sees the MT’s timeline of Genesis 5 and 11 as the authentic chronology, there is overwhelming proof that it is not what the Bible originally set forth. Instead, the chronology of the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament translated about 285 B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt, should be regarded as the authentic primeval timeline of the Bible. The evidence that it’s the correct timeline is compelling. This is despite the fact that since the time of the Reformation (1517) the familiar Ussher chronology (characterized by Adam’s creation in 4004 B.C.) has been the dominant view of almost all Christendom. As I will show in this article, Protestants and Roman Catholics hold to the wrong chronology – the same timeline presented in the King James Bible and the Latin Vulgate. Only the Greek Orthodox Church, which holds the LXX to be the proper Bible for Christians to use, affirms the original and authentic biblical chronology (first written in a primitive Hebrew script by Moses) as presented in the LXX’s Book of Genesis. [1]

Scholar William B. Hales made this fact crystal clear in his 1830 book, A New Analysis of Chronology and Geography, History and Prophecy. Says Hale, “Until the Reformation, a majority of Christian chronologists believed the LXX preserved most of the original numbers” (pp. 211-214). But during the Reformation, the MT supplanted the LXX in Western churches and thereafter its shorter chronology (by over 1500 years) became the majority view.  There were still many scholars who believed the LXX timeline was correct while the MT chronology was corrupt, but their scholarship was given short shrift.  This choice has been reinforced for several centuries. Today, the prejudice against the LXX chronology is nigh unshakeable. However, the evidence stands up easily against the avid dismissal (and indeed, attack) of those Evangelicals who hold to tradition and “swear by” the infallibility of the King James Bible.

Can the situation be made right?  Yes, it can ifwe are willing to assess the evidence. The most compelling confirmation lies with the witness of several ancient historians living before or contemporary with Jesus Christ.They all confirmed the LXX chronology is correct since it aligns with what the original Hebrew Vorlage set forth. In fact, the LXX is a mere witness to the authentic Hebrew timeline revealed to Mosesby Yahweh. Thus, the source of its chronology was the original Hebrew Vorlage itself, not the Greek translation. (The Vorlage is the final text believed assembled by Ezra ca. fifth century B.C. – after the return of the captives from Babylon – and then kept safe for almost six centuries in the Second Temple).

This paper will take a summary look at this evidence. The details are taken from an article by Henry B. Smith Jr., “The Case for the Septuagint’s Chronology in Genesis 5 and 11.” [2] I provide a summary of Smith’s main argument without diving into too many details. Anymore who has doubts as to my assertions here should study the topic in more depth by reading Smith’s article carefully.

Why Bother to Write This Article?

My reason for taking this matter up is simple: The thesis of my most recent book, Rebooting the Bible: PART ONE: Exposing the Second Century Conspiracy to Corrupt the Scripture and Alter Biblical Chronology,relies upon the LXX’s chronology being correct while the MT’s (and Ussher’s chronology) must be shown to be incorrect.  As a collateral issue, establishing an alternative chronology demonstrates that the supposed inerrancy of the King James Version in many fundamentalist quarters is simply untrue. (The King James Bible like all Protestant Bibles and the Roman Catholic Vulgate employ the MT’s Genesis instead of the LXX’s, and thus the shorter chronology). What is also argued is why the MT chronology does not conform to the truth. I contend it was purposefully corrupted by the “founding” rabbis after the second temple was destroyed (70 A.D.)  Changing the biblical chronology became one of the principal means to discredit the claims by Jesus’ followers that Jesus of Nazareth was the long-awaited Messiah.

As my book argues, the motivation at the center of the rabbinical corruption was their hatred of Jesus and His disciples. This should not be surprising.  The rabbis were formerly comprised of the sect we know as the Pharisees, the self-righteous enemies of Jesus.  It should be no surprise then that they sought (in step one) to destroy all other then-existing Hebrew biblical texts which provided messianic prophecies providing support to Christianity’s claims; and (step two) develop a newly-crafted Greek Tanakh shortly thereafter. The rabbis prepared this new Greek Bible for the global Jewish diaspora. (The first of three versions was created by Aquila around 130 A.D.) It comprised a major part of the plan to counter the Old Greek (OG) Alexandrian Septuagint then used in synagogues. (Note: The LXX was created over a period of about 135 years from 285 B.C to 150 B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt, while some of the later books such as 1 and 2 Maccabees were composed in Palestine).  The rabbinical plan might have worked except for the fact the original Hebrew Vorlage testified to a very different chronology, one followed not only by the LXX but by several other very ancient historians. We will lay out an important facet of the case that the chronology of the LXX is what the Hebrew Bible originally set forth.

Before we move to that topic, we should first make note that the Qumran manuscripts (i.e., the Dead Sea Scrolls) also contained fragments of the Septuagint and help to verify its authenticity. Numerous Jewish scholars including the eminent scholar, Emanuel Tov confirm this. Says Tov,

Although the LXX has been transmitted into Greek, these details [the numbers in Genesis 5/11] should not be ascribed to the translator, but the Hebrew Vorlage… The LXX translation of Genesis is relatively literal … any recalculation of the chronological lists by a translator is highly unlikely. [3]

Providing Further Context to the Story of Chronology Corruption

There are several voices whose collective testimony validates the Septuagint’s chronology instead of the Masoretic’s. These voices harmonize. To be more precise, they corroborate each other’s testimony. Crucially, they were all written (provably) before any Masoretic text appears containing the shorter “Ussher chronology.” As we will see, this indicates the chronology of the Bible was corrupted sometime after the close of the first century A.D. (Not covered here but documented in Rebooting the Bible, are the few dozen alterations injected into what I label the “Messianic passages” evincing a pre-meditated plan to corrupt the Old Testament’s witness to Jesus Christ). [4]

Warning: The information Smith documents can delve into obscure details in a hurry.  Consequently, I will do my best to keep the discussion at a high level for easier reading. Please realize that my article is no more than a summary.  Smith’s excellent paper lays out the evidence in meticulous detail which should dispel any doubt about the correct chronology. And as I’ve already stated several times, once we prove that the LXX chronology reflects the original Hebrew chronology, we know that the MT contains a fabrication of the biblical timeline that the rabbinical authorities, through deception and altering the words of the Torah, wanted the world to believe.  In essence, they sought to rewrite history. Why did they do so?  Because they held a second-temple belief that the Messiah would come after 5,500 years had elapsed since Adam was created. Although they knew that Jesus appeared in the “fullness of time” (i.e., right on schedule – Galatians 4:4), Jesus did not match their messianic concept. Consequently, they had to trim about 1,520 years from the chronology in the Tanakh (their Bible) to hide this fact.

How did they trim the time?  In Genesis 5 and 11, there are 14 patriarchs in which changes were made to the age when that Patriarch begat his “child of promise” (the lineage through whom the Messiah would one day come). In all 14 cases but one, this amount was decreased by 100 years (e.g., from 130 years to 30 years) while the life span of the Patriarch was not changed.  Of the 14 Patriarchs, only Nahor’s begetting age was reduced by a different amount – 50 years instead of 100. (See the antediluvian chronology chart for details).

As stated above, the chronologies of greatest import are those are in Genesis 5 and 11.  In these two chapters, about 1,350 years are cut out of the timeline.  Where are the other 200 years?  We find it in the Jewish calendar known as the Seder Olam Rabbah, created by a disciple of Rabbi Akiba, in the second century. To understand what happened, we need to recall that in Daniel chapter 9, the timing from the command to complete the Temple until the Messiah is “cut off” (put to death) is 70 “weeks” of years (490 years in total). In composing the Seder Olam Rabbah, several Persian kings were deleted from history, reducing biblical chronology by another 200 years. The rabbis performed this further adjustment to endorse Simon Bar Kokhba as the Messiah 100 years after Jesus’ death (ca. 132 A.D.) Therefore, more than 1,550 years were removed from biblical history according to Orthodox Jewish tradition (and the Jewish calendar year date of 5779 anno mundi(AM) reflects this emendation – the actual date should be well over 7500).

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The two Genesis chronologies are also (and primarily meant to be) genealogies. The point of both is to take the reader from Adam all the way to Abraham.  Genesis 5 covers Adam to Noah.  Chapter 11 identifies the sequence of ancestry from Noah to Abraham. Unlike the genealogy in 1 Chronicles, beginning in chapter 1, the writer provides a much more comprehensive ancestry without any attempt to state the lifetimes of those in the list. No chronology was implied.

While the majority of Evangelicals and Roman Catholics argue that these genealogical lists in Genesis 5 and 11 are not meant to infer chronologies, this majority viewpoint has been proven incorrect by Smith and his writing partner Jeremy Sexton in three separate articles which I reference in Rebooting the Bible.[5] Smith’s article used as the source for my article here is a fourth, consistent with the others, but slightly more recent containing more information about how the confirming ancient sources reveal the authentic biblical chronology.

Who are the Ancient Authorities Whose Writings Support the LXX’s Chronology?

Who or what are these sources?  The ancient chroniclers are:

  1. Demetrius the Chronographer, writing ca.220 B.C.in the reign of Ptolemy IV.His words are recorded for us through Eusebius’ and Clement’s work.  Demetrius dates the Creation to 5307 B.C. and the Flood to 3043 B.C.  The period from Adam to the Flood was 2264 years, consistent with the longer Hebrew Vorlage/LXX chronology. He was a Jew living in Alexandria, therefore probably having access to both the Hebrew and the Greek Tanakh.
  2. Eupolemus, was a Jewish historian writing ca 160 B.C. A fragment of his Greek work, “On the Kings in Judea,” appears in Clement’s Stromata. Eupolemus calculates 5149 years from Adam to the fifth year of Demetrius I’s reign, ca. 158 B.C. (thereby also dating Adam at 5307 B.C.). He was a high-ranking Jewish official, writing in Koine Greek (but with a Hebrew flavor according to one scholar). We know of him not only by his writing but by the fact that he was sent to Rome in 161 B.C. by Judas Maccabeus. Some elements of his writing indicated that he was directly translating from the Hebrew into Greek, possibly accessing the Hebrew scrolls that had been kept in the Temple library. We also learn that Josephus was familiar with Eupolemus, praising his work (in Against Apion1:23). This is a case where one of the ancient historians verifies another’s work.
  3. Pseudo-Philo,writing in the first century A.D., likely a contemporary with Jesus.[6]His work is known in Latin as Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum(LAB) an extant Latin copy discovered two centuries ago. In English, we know this work as the Book of Biblical Antiquities. Its chronology runs from Adam to King Saul (circa 196 B.C.) This work was discovered in the nineteenth century and first published in modern times in 1917. Several scholars who have studied the book agree that it was written in Hebrew before being translated to Latin. The author was trained as a Pharisee and wrote the work before the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Since the author was Jewish, lived in Jerusalem, and was someone with a strong favoritism toward the Pharisees, it is almost a certainty it relied upon a Hebrew chronology that the LXX preserves. LAB records the period from Adam to Noah (the antediluvian chronology) of 2256 years.
  4. Josephus, writing after the destruction of the Temple, at the end of the first century A.D. While Josephus is often accused of relying upon the LXX’s chronology instead of the Hebrew, Smith notes that Josephus asserted in several places he worked from the Hebrew (Antiquities of the Jews1:5, 9:208, 10:218; Against Apion1:1, 54). Several scholars cited by Smith agree Josephus had a Hebrew text in his possession. One scholar, Ė. Nodet, an expert on Josephus, identified 100 of his passages dealing with the Pentateuch, to confirm that Josephus utilized a Hebrew source (designated as “H”) which was very close to the Hebrew source for the Septuagint (known as “G”). Smith cites Nodet’s explanation that Josephus utilized a Temple library scroll which had been used for at least a century or more.[7] If so, this would indicate that this scroll was in existence around the time of Jesus’ birth or earlier.  Smith points out that his chronology cannot be reconciled with the MT version since Josephus recounted that his book covered 5000 years of Jewish history while the MT only spoke of 3900 years (from Adam to the time of Christ).  Moreover, Josephus reiterated this chronology in several “epochal comments” (where he states the time lapsed from one point to another – e.g., how many years passed from Adam to Noah, or from the time from Noah to Abraham), which reinforced the longer chronology consistent with the LXX’s witness.

What Problems Exist in the Longer Chronology Which Must be Addressed?

To reiterate: My primary concern that I address here is that the shorter chronology appears only after the first century with one exception which we must address.  As laid out above, the essential element constitutes the reduction of the begetting age (ba) by 100 years and the addition of 100 years in the remaining years of the patriarch’s life (remaining years, ry) so that the lifespan of the patriarch continues to be the same length in both chronologies. An example: Adam was 230 years in babefore Seth was born, with 700 years remaining in his life, ry, making him 930 at his death.  This is from the longer chronology.  The shorter chronology reduces Adam’s bato 130 and increases his ryto 800 adding up to 930 years. As stated earlier, the shorter chronology of the Masoretic Text performs this adjustment in 13 examples and a further increase of 50 years in bawith Nahor.

But there are a few other much smaller matters which have become central to the arguments most often advanced against the longer chronology.

The first is the birth year of Methuselah relative to the age of his father, Enoch. The shorter chronology has Enoch’s ba at 167 and the longer chronology in virtually all extant cases is 187 for Enoch’s ba.  The shorter is incorrect. 187 is the baamong the witnesses of the longer chronology in the LXX, LAB, and Josephus. Why so?  Because if Methuselah was born when Enoch was 167, Methuselah would have lived 14 years after the Flood of Noah. Smith points out that Josephus confirms this baconsistently in his texts. Other witnesses to the same baare Demetrius, LAB, Julius Africanus, and several other LXX manuscripts. Therefore, the ba for Methuselah when Enoch was begat was 187. Some, but not all, LXX manuscripts contain this error.

The next matter is Lamech’s ba when Noah, his son, was born. In a few cases (but not all), the LXX has 188 as his ba. Josephus’ manuscripts vary, using either 182 or 188, while LAB has 182. This is linked to the ry of Lamech and his age at death which is tangled.  The LXX has 565 ry and death at 753. Josephus has 595 ry and death at

Lamech

777. Likewise, LAB has 595 for Lamech’s remaining years, with his death at 777. Likewise, the scholarly opinions Smith references are split as to what was the original in the Hebrew Vorlage. Regardless, his ba establishes the Flood of Noah (years from Adam’s creation) for the original Hebrew at either 2262 or 2256. Recall the MT has 1656 years from Adam to the Flood which is either 600 or 606 years less than the Hebrew Vorlage. Finally, Josephus has Lamech living only to 707 rather than 777. Smith believes that neither 753 nor 707 can be correct.  Thus, a difference of 17 years is the possible gap between the LXX and LAB. 70 years is the gap between Josephus and LAB.  Smith indicates that he will provide more data in a future article to confirm that 777 was in fact the correct number in the original Hebrew. Given the magnitude of the primary corruption identified above, an error of 70 years appears rather small and is best considered a scribal mistake that became embedded in some versions of the LXX.

Smith digs into a third controversy regardingthe years between the Flood and the birth of Abraham.  The MT states that it was only 292 years.  This is 700 years less than the longer chronology that Josephus consistently asserts in his worksfor a hiatus of 992 years.   Smith judges this to be the correct number. In stark contrast, one scholar quoted by Smith contends the MT’s 292 years is a “palpable forgery to make the math work” (Hales, p. 294) Why is this important?  If the shorter gap is true, Noah lives until two years before Abraham is born, Abraham and Nimrod are contemporaries, and Abraham’s “living a good old age” (Genesis 25;8) as promised by God would be in contrast to others living much longer lives than Abraham and dying proximate to Abraham’s lifetime. This is purported to be the case in the book of Jasher.  However, as will be demonstrated in Rebooting the Bible, Part 2, Jasher is at best a thirteenth-century A.D. forgery (or possibly forged in the eighteenth century) and not the book mentioned in several verses of the Old Testament (cf: Joshua 10:12-13; 2 Samuel 1:18-27).

MT Chronology – Note How Many Patriarchs Die During Abraham’s Life if He was born Only 292 Years from the Flood

The fourth and perhaps most important issue has to do with where and when the shorter chronology originated. Smith (among a number of others he mentions) state that the Genesis 5 begetting ages come from the book of Jubilees.  The purpose of this intertestamental book was to cast the major events of the Bible in alignment with the Jubilee every 49thyear (afterward, there is a one-year Jubilee). This book, created sometime in the second-temple period, argued for a 364-day year based on the sun rather than the moon (by which the Hebrew calendar and its holidays are set). The begetting ages in Jubilees are, in Smith’s position, “not derived from the Genesis text but were invented by (its) author to create a jubilees-based chronology. Jubilees is the original source of the shorter-pre-Flood chronology, not the Genesis text.” Another scholar Smith cites indicates that Josephus was familiar with Jubilees but chose not to use its begetting ages. Instead, he used the longer chronology of the Hebrew original.

In summary, all the ancient witnesses living in the first century (Josephus and LAB) or from the preceding three centuries (Demetrius in 206 B.C., Eupolemus in 160 B.C.) confirm the longer chronology to be what the original Hebrew Vorlage revealed.  Hence, when this was translated into Greek, the LXX used the Hebrew Vorlage (or “G”). This chronology places the Flood 3,184 years before Christ.  The question that I take up in Rebooting the Bible, besides a recap of this material and why the Evangelical world chose to abandon the longer chronology, comprises the intriguing timeline between the birth of Abraham and the birth of Christ. I assert that my research establishes it by researching the period from 586 B.C. (the destruction of the first Temple, a date that all historians acknowledge), and the birth of Abraham approximately 1,500 years earlier. As I demonstrate, of upmost importance is when the Exodus occurred.  For from that date, we link to the primeval chronology of Genesis 5 and 11, establishing a complete chronology from Jesus to Adam. And, by the way, there are still another 200 years missing from the longer chronology which I document in Rebooting the Bible, pushing back the Flood and Tower of Babel events to even earlier dates.

Conclusion: Follow the Logic

  1. The LXX maintained alignment with the Hebrew Vorlage when it was first translated from Hebrew into Greek, beginning ca. 280 B.C. The Hebrew Vorlage had been assembled through the efforts of Ezra (and possibly Nehemiah) roughly 150 years earlier than this date and was most likely stored in the Temple library. The copies of the Vorlage used by the LXX translators were probably only once or twice removed from the master copies (“generationally speaking”). Far fewer errors had crept into the LXX than the MT which wasn’t “adjusted” and “canonized” by the rabbis for another 400 years after the LXX translation, ca. 110 A.D.
  2. The LXX records what the original Hebrew stated, albeit translated into Greek. No argument should be made that the LXX was inspired in the same way as the original Hebrew (or Chaldean for the few sections written in this Babylonian language). There may be only one mistake made in the chronology contained in these earliest copies of the LXX created from the Hebrew Vorlage. (To clarify: The additional problems I covered concerning the LXX (“What Problems Exist in the Chronology Which Must be Addressed?”) are problems not in the LXX, but in the ancient documents which validate the LXX dates).
  3. The evidence demonstrates that the source of the chronology was the Hebrew original rather than the Greek translation into the LXX. Smith’s more detailed analysis supplies considerable additional detail that shows the longer chronology came from a Hebrew source, i.e., the Vorlage.
  4. However, it is the Greek translation of which we have very old copies (three codices from the fourth and fifth centuriesD. known as codices Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus, and Vaticanus). The earliest Hebrew copy we have of the Torah (Genesis being the first of those five books of Moses) is the Leningrad Codex dating to the tenth century A.D.  The Aleppo Codex is slightly older than Leningradensisbut lacks the entire Pentateuch save for its final page.

Final thoughts: While the longer chronology demonstrates a major problem in the conventional chronology of Ussher and the King James Bible, it upholds the then-current prediction that Messiah would come 5,500 years from Adam (the underlying rationale to alter the timeline – another subject for another day).  Having the correct biblical chronology enables the timeline of the Bible to be more easily reconciled with the Mesopotamian and Egyptian chronology. For those believers in “young earth creationism” this additional 900-1000 years opens the door to recasting the young earth timeline into what appears to me to be a more sensible duration for alignment with academically supported geology and secular history. Questions about the truthfulness of the Bible are also better answered when the longer chronology is accepted. And problems of inconsistency between the Old and New Testaments (for Christians) can be addressed much better as well, which may be the most important benefit of all.

The evidence is clear. But are you willing to accept it?

[For those still in doubt, I encourage you to study Henry Smith Jr.’s article – see endnote number two below for the link.]


Endnotes

[1]The alphabet most likely used by Moses was the proto-Sinaitic script possibly invented by Joseph when he was the vizier of the Pharaoh in Egypt’s Middle Kingdom, ca. 1850 B.C. Over 1,000 years, this alphabet continued to evolve into proto-Hebraic and finally modern Hebrew. See Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy, a film by Timothy Mahoney, which builds a compelling case that from this script, Phoenician, Ugarit, and Aramaic scripts evolved.

[2]Smith, H.B. Jr. 2018. The case for the Septuagint’s chronology in Genesis 5 and 11. In Proceedings of the Eight International Conference on Creationism, ed. J.H. Whitmore, pp 117-132. Pittsburgh, PA. Creation Science Fellowship. Retrieved April 25, 2019, from http://www.biblearchaeology.org/file.axd?file=2018%2f7%2f14+Smith+Septuagint+Chronology+final.pdf

[3] Tov, E. 2015. The genealogical lists in Genesis 5 and 11 in three different versions. In textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, Qumran, Septuagint, pp. 221-238.

[4] The exact timeframe would be between about 100 A.D. and no later than several years before 160 A.D. when Justin Martyr accuses the Jews of corrupting the scripture to harm their witness to Jesus as the Messiah, in his treatise, Dialogue with Trypho (ca. 160 A.D.)

[5] Smith, Henry B. “Methuselah’s Begetting Age in Genesis 5:25 and the Primeval Chronology of the Septuagint: A Closer Look at the Textual and Historical Evidence.” Answer’s Research Journal 10 (2017) p. 169-179.

Sexton, Jeremy. “Who was born when Enosh was 90? A Semantic reevaluation of William Henry Green’s Chronological Gaps.” Westminster Theological Journal 77 (2015), p. 193-218.

Sexton, Jeremy, and Smith, Henry B. Jr., “Primeval Chronology Restored: Revising the Genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11.” Bible and Spade 29.2 (2016).

[6] The author was originally thought to be Philo of Alexandria.  Later it was determined this could not be correct. Consequently, the author’s name (being unknown) came to be called Pseudo-Philo.

[7] Nodet, Ė. 1997. Josephus and the Pentateuch. Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Period 28,no. 2. 154-194

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