WHEN DID THE BIBLE’S MOST ANCIENT STORIES TAKE PLACE?

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The Chronology of Genesis Is Important to Its Truthfulness of the Bible


It’s a question most of us who study the Bible want to know. “When did the stories of Genesis take place?” Specifically, we want to ask many questions related to the events of Genesis. And this topic is important. The “historicity” of these great stories isn’t incidental to the veracity and the message of the Bible.


When God breathed life into Adam, how long was it before the Flood of Noah happened? Then, how many years elapsed after the Flood before

The Ark of Noah

the Tower of Babel was built on a plain in Shinar? After Nimrod, how many sunrises and sunsets occurred before Abraham became the most prominent forebear of the Israelites, the people of Israel and Judah?  His story is indeed the tale of “the plan for man,” specifically when that plan shifted to God’s strategy for humanity’s redemption. Abraham’s biography recounts vital incidents in Canaan, for him, and his son and grandson (Isaac and Jacob). But the scene eventually shifts to Egypt where Abraham’s descendants grow into an enormous population, that despite being enslaved to the Egyptians, threaten them. Although Hebrew slavery became essential to Egypt’s economy, Yahweh delivers the Children of Israel through Moses.  But when, exactly, did Moses lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt? We must know this date because all the events before the Exodus tie back to it.

Tower of Babel

To establish these dates, we must develop a working chronology of the Old Testament. The stories from Creation to Abraham imply a chronology. And the chronology comes from he first and oldest genealogies in the Bible. But do these primeval genealogies provided in Genesis 5 and 11 also determine the actual dates when these various episodes occurred?  To probe a bit deeper: Assuming Genesis does assert a sequence of dates, a timeline if you will, we must ask, “Which Bible provides the correct timeline?”  Most Christians don’t know that the timeline developed by Bishop James Ussher ca. 1625 and presented in the King James Version (KJV) earlier in 1611, isn’t the chronology that the early Church followed, nor the chronology that agrees with Josephus, and several other books of the ancient world.

The best supported chronology is put forth in the Septuagint, ca. 280 B.C.  With few exceptions, this is the chronology affirmed by the Early Church too, up until the sixth century A.D., almost 750 years later.  Perhaps surprising to most, the alternative chronology included in Genesis 5 and 11 didn’t appear on the scene until about 110 A.D., 390 years later.  This chronology was cut from whole cloth by the rabbis after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., eliminating 1,600 years from it, and put into this fabricated timeline in their revised Hebrew Bible.  This was, in effect, a conspiracy meant to hide the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. But to uncover the conspiracy, we must begin by parsing the painstaking work of the scholars.

When Were the Chronologies of the Bible Published?

Our quest begins with an investigation into the biblical sources. It starts with the Vorlage of the Bible; that is, the earliest assembled text (ca. 450 B.C., in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah) that became the accepted Old Testament.[1] For it’s from this Hebrew Vorlage that the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, was created ca. 280 B.C. (The Septuagint is abbreviated LXX for the 70 scholars who supposedly developed the translation migrating the original Hebrew into Greek.) Why should we take such care in this investigation? Because we must determine the issue of “which Vorlage” is the authentic text, because nothing less than the truthfulness of the Bible is at stake.

You see, the LXX and MT differ in numerous crucial passages. Vital to our thesis, the chronology of the Septuagint varies dramatically from that which is provided by the Masoretic Text (MT). The MT was compiled about 400 years after (ca. 110 A.D.), the LXX (ca. 280 B.C.). This “proto-MT” would one day become the “official” (i.e., canonized) Hebrew Bible, aka the Old Testament, through efforts led by Rabbi Akiba during the time of the famous Jewish rebel, Simeon Bar Kokhba (executed in 135 A.D.)

As you will see, this study (Rebooting the Bible) is far from boring, because conspiracies play no small part swaying how our Bible was

The Septuagint – The Seventy

assembled. We’re not just talking about selecting the books and placing them in their preferred order, but in numerous instances, the engineering process included altering the original words.  Trust me: This story is one almost no one knows. And the few who know about it, undervalue the reasons why it’s so significant that all Christian and Jewish communities learn the truth.

What Were the Second Century Rabbis Afraid of?

And the story delivers on drama and intrigue. To peek behind the curtains (and to peak your interest), here’s this story in a nutshell:

Second-century rabbis deliberately altered the biblical text 1,900 years ago to twist what the original authors wrote.

You may protest and ask, “Why would these holy sages taint the Hebrew Old Testament?  Didn’t they believe it was sacred? It was their holy book after all. What could motivate them to take such drastic measures?  Put simply: They decided if certain passages weren’t materially changed, their ancient religion and race were both finished, for a conquered people – minus their land, their language, and their faith – wouldn’t survive.

As the first century A.D. was came to a close, Rome destroyed the Jewish Temple, maintaining its draconian rule. The culture was in flux. Judea and Syria were fueled by Christians evangelists spreading the teaching of Jesus Christ like wildfire. Feeding this fire was the Greek Septuagint that by then had already become the Christian Bible. Jesus’ Apostles brandished it as a powerful weapon, causing a revolution in the Spirit and in the political structure. Gone was the Sanhedrin. The Pharisees and Sadducees remained in a struggle for local control.

The rabbis, successors to the Pharisees, feared the wording in messianic passages of the Psalms and the Prophets. These passages made too strong a case for Jesus being the Messiah. Additionally, the LXX was now the Bible of the Jewish Diaspora (the dispersion of Jews from 700 B.C. forward). This added insult to injury. The rabbis saw plainly that the Jewish people needed their own Greek Bible that watered down the wording of Isaiah, David, and other prophets. From Rabbi Akiba’s standpoint, this “Jewish-only” Bible must weaken the prophecies concerning the Messiah.

A prime example was Psalm 40:6. The writer of the New Testament Book of Hebrews quoted the verse as written in the LXX, “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast prepared me; whole burnt offering and sacrifice for sin thou didst not require.” Not only did this passage downplay Temple ritual, the Psalm also speaks of a human body prepared by God for the Messiah, which would provide the perfect sacrifice. For a rabbi, it was unthinkable that God would take on flesh. The incarnation was an abomination.  Consequently, the verse had to be changed. Soon it read, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened.” (Psalm 40:6, King James Version) As in other passages we will cover, not only are vital attributes of the Messiah downplayed or dismissed, the sacrificial death of the Messiah (strongly hinted at in the passage), is replaced with a continual focus on keeping the law. Given the rabbis sought to replace their rivals, the priesthood, their words were not randomly chosen.

Why Did Hebrew Rabbis Need a Greek Bible?

But you still may ask, “Why did the Jews need a Greek Bible?” You see, by the time of Jesus Christ, only a few Jews throughout the world understood Hebrew; so, they needed a Bible in their everyday language which by then had become Koine Greek. Surprisingly, this was even true in Judaea. Since Akiba saw that a new Greek translation was needed to counter the Septuagint, a modified Hebrew Vorlage must first be created, to facilitate a new Greek translation. This meant the Hebrew Vorlage had to be “updated” – obfuscating biblical passages buttressing the case for Jesus. The Bible must be rid of prooftexts Christians used to proselytize Jews. Therefore, Akiba created a new Hebrew Vorlage – different from what was used 350 years earlier by Alexandrian Jews when creating the LXX. Consequently, the most significant textual revision of all time was finished, led by none other than the father of Rabbinic Judaism, Rabbi Akiba ben Yosef.

This new Hebrew Vorlage, now hand-crafted from refashioned copies of the original Hebrew, became the forerunner of the Masoretic Text (henceforth often referred to as the proto-MT or the proto-Masoretic Text).  Akiba’s efforts (and those of his succeeding disciples for the next 100 years), were directed to eradicate this rapid-growing, heretical cult known as Christianity.  So, even after Bar Kokhba was dead and buried and could no longer pretend to be the awaited Messiah, the Rabbis continued to put him forth as a messianic figure, displacing Jesus as the preferred messianic candidate as far as Jewish orthodoxy was concerned. Therefore, Christianity had to be stopped at all costs.

What better way to hamper Christianity’s growth than to undermine “the Christian Bible” by creating a new Greek Bible for Jews, purportedly based on the authentic, original Hebrew Vorlage?  Since so few Jews knew Hebrew (including the Church Fathers save Origen), slipping in changes to launch the “new and improved” Hebrew Vorlage, was no trouble at all. When the “official Old Testament canon” was finally settled ca. 110 A.D. by the rabbis – with Akiba leading the effort – the altered Vorlage was part and parcel of the go-forward plan.

The Implication for the Protestant Bible

Unfortunately, this means we Evangelicals must face the fact that the King James Version (KJV), based predominantly on the Masoretic Text, has carried forward these “modifications” in its Old Testament. Our current day Bibles include these errors (with a few other adjustments we will discuss). The KJV – although first published in 1611 – continues to this day to be the standard Bible for many if not most Protestants. But Evangelicals don’t know this.

The King James Bible of 1611

So, what difference does it make?  The chronology of the Masoretic Text (as presented in Genesis chapters 5 and 11) and popularized through the KJV for over 400 years, is flat wrong.  In fact, it is off by almost 1,600 years. Plus, prophecies regarding the Messiah as presented in the Old Testament (not just the KJV but every Protestant Bible), have been watered down. With few exceptions, all Protestant Bibles exclusively follow the MT. Since the chronology also contributes to the case for Jesus Christ (as we will demonstrate later), the timeline was altered too – and dramatically so. The unintended consequences for Jews and Christians were not that significant for the next millennium and a half. But over the last 200 years, during our modern era, this corrupted chronology has become a big problem. It became so since the science of Archeology started unearthing artifacts contradicting the dates supplied by the Masoretic Text. If Christians returned to the chronology of the Septuagint, Archeology would sync up with a “rebooted Bible” – eliminating a major objection to the Bible’s account of history.[2]

If my allegations are upsetting to you, please be patient. As scientist Brian Greene says, “Exploring the unknown (and the unfamiliar) requires tolerating uncertainty.” I know I am stepping on some sacred foundations of faith. I also realize that what I am saying may strike you as anti-Semitic. This is far from the truth. I am reaching out to Jews and Christians alike.

Getting Our Story Straight for Unbelievers

When given a chance, the Septuagint untangles several messes made by the KJV’s faulty chronology. We should evaluate the LXX from this standpoint, for many other relevant sources confirm the LXX while contradicting the MT.  The Samaritan Pentateuch,[3] the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus’ testimony in his Antiquities of the Jews, quotations from the writings of the Church Fathers, and early Jewish historians who relied upon the LXX before the time of Jesus. These sources represent solid witnesses confirming the assertions made here. Indeed, you will be puzzled that the Masoretic chronology, popularized by Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656), became the dominant biblical timeline once you’ve reviewed all the evidence.

Right up front, again, let me affirm that I believe in biblical inerrancy. Furthermore, allow me to say the King James Version stands without equal as the most influential book of all time in the Western World. Tens (if not hundreds) of millions have been saved by the Gospel as presented within its pages.

On the other hand, please recognize the fact that the Septuagint was the Bible of all Christian Churches for its first five centuries (including later “splinter groups” such as Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox!)  In fact, for the Eastern Orthodox, the LXX never stopped being their Bible. And make note that the LXX was quoted 80% of the time by New Testament writers.[4] (The actual number is 90% if we include those passages where the LXX and MT agree.)  So, we should hold the Septuagint in the highest regard – perhaps seeing it superior to the KJV’s Old Testament.[5] And even Jewish scholars judge it a more precise rendering of the original Hebrew Vorlage in many passages.[6]

This matters a great deal, for once we have established the foundation for the correct chronology of the Bible, we are better equipped to engage in dialogues with modern critics who challenge the Bible’s historical accuracy and overall veracity. Furthermore, we can better align biblical chronology with the accepted findings of countless archeological discoveries in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel, and elsewhere.  Finally, we can intelligently consider other theories about “pre-history,”[7]  those alternate views of human origins popular in today’s world that date to 10,000 B.C. This too, is a topic worthy of investigation and discussion.


NOTES

[1] The role of Ezra is debated among scholars.  Some regard him as the author of the Torah, others see him as a later writer of the Books of Chronicles. He was clearly a champion of the Torah. The Talmud considers him the father of Judaism. Ezra is known as Esdras in the Septuagint.  His Greek name was shortened to Ezra in the English world. The Documentary Hypothesis, or JEPD Theory, so detrimental to the authority of the Bible, saw Ezra in a redactor role. We can bet the priesthood assembled the scrolls and held them in the Temple. Since the Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar, the scrolls had to be secured outside of the Temple itself.

[2] The challenges Christian apologists face with evolution must be dealt with in a different way than conflicts we might have with Archeology, Anthropology, and their interpretations of history. Archeology is an empirical study. It looks at recorded history aka 10,000 years ago, not 13 billion years.  It surfaces tangible “hard facts” (for the most part) to establish whether a biblical supposition can be confirmed or contradicted. It is this realm that we are addressing through this book.

[3] The Pentateuch consists of the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Scholarship varies widely upon authorship and the timing of when it was written. Tradition holds it was Moses.  Liberal scholars believe it was created during the Babylonian captivity circa 550 BCE. The Samaritan Pentateuch requires much more explanation and will be discussed in the chapter dealing in more depth with the Septuagint’s chronology.

[4] This comment should be clarified.  The Vorlage, the Hebrew Text behind the Septuagint translation, is included in this statement.  Matthew, for instance, cites a Hebrew source that corresponds to the Septuagint version, indicating that it was the Vorlage text being cited, not the version of the text that became the Masoretic Text.

[5] Be mindful, the KJV’s New Testament does not have the same problem – for the KJV cites the original Greek New Testament, and the Old Testament verses cited by the New Testament writers follow the Septuagint nine out ten times. And the rabbis did not have the means or opportunity to corrupt the Old Testament as quoted by authors of the New. Happily.

[6] Notwithstanding, there were challenges the original translators faced migrating Hebrew idioms into “good Greek.” A small example, “God is our Rock” could give an impression to Greeks that God was in a rock. No doubt, ancient Hebrew gave the Hebrew-to-Greek translators some real challenges.

[7] Although we will not spend time on semi-deified spacemen as the cause of these “effects.” (See the author’s book, Lying Wonders of the Red Planet: Exposing the Lie of Ancient Aliens, for an exposé on what’s wrong with this particularly pesky new myth for denying the Biblical account of the LORD God’s creation of heaven and earth.)