Genealogies of Genesis
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The genealogies of Genesis (in chapters 4, 5, and 11 of the Book of Genesis) list the traditional descendants of Adam and Eve to Abraham. Genesis 5 and 11 include the age at which each patriarch had the descendant named in the text and the number of years he lived thereafter. Since Genesis 5 and 11 provide the age of each patriarch at the birth of his named descendant, it presents a gapless chronology from Adam to Abraham, even if the named descendant is not always a first-generation son. That is, a gapless chronology is not dependent on gapless genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11; in fact, an intact chronology is semantically inescapable. Adam's lineage contains two branches: for Cain, given in Chapter 4, and for Seth in Chapter 5. Genesis chapter 10, the Table of Nations records the populating of the Earth by Noah's descendants, and is not strictly a genealogy but an ethnography).
Three versions of the Genesis genealogy exist: the Hebrew Masoretic Text, the Greek Septuagint, and the Hebrew Samaritan Pentateuch. Translations from the Masoretic Text are preferred by Western Christians, including Roman Catholics and Protestants and by followers of Orthodox Judaism, whereas the Greek version is preferred by Eastern Christians, including Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, Ethiopic, Jacobite and Armenian. The Samaritan version of the Pentateuch is used mainly by the Samaritans. The Vulgate, published by Jerome in 405, is a Latin translation based on a Hebrew Tanakh compiled near the end of the first century, whereas the Septuagint was produced during the third century BC based on an earlier version of the Tanakh. Both have, like the Masoretic Text, been the basis for translations into numerous vernacular languages.
Genealogies of Cain and Seth
Three of Adam and Eve's children are named. The main genealogy is via Seth, who was born after Cain, the firstborn son, slew his brother Abel. A genealogy for Cain is also given (in genesis 4), with some names similar to those for Seth's descendants. No years are provided, so the following table simply lines the descendants up by generation.
(for a continuation of this family tree through the line of Shem, see Abraham's Family Tree)
Nearly all modern translations of Genesis are derived from the Masoretic (Hebrew) Text. But there are also two other versions of Genesis: the Samaritan (from a Hebrew script) and the Septuagint (a Greek translation of a Hebrew text). Although scholars are aware that these three versions of Genesis 5 have different numbers, people who have seen only the commonly available translations are often unaware that other versions exist. The numbers in the Masoretic, Samaritan, and Lucianic Septuagint versions of Genesis are shown in this table:
The following table lists the patriarchs that appear in the Vulgate and the Septuagint, but their names are spelled as they appear in the King James Version of the Bible. Their year of birth differs according to the Vulgate or the Septuagint. (AM = Anno Mundi = in the year of the world). Also given is each patriarch's age at the birth of his named son and the age of the patriarch's death. Cainan, born after the flood is mentioned in the Septuagint but not the Vulgate. Methuselah survived the Flood according to the Septuagint (but not the Vulgate), even though he was not on Noah's Ark.
|Masoretic & Vulgate||Samaritan||Septuagint|
|Mahalalel||One who praises God||395||65||830||895||395||65||830||895||795||165||730||895|
|Methuselah||man of the dart or his death shall bring judgment||687||187||782||969||587||67||653||720||1287||167||802||969|
|Arphaxad||I shall fail as the breast||1658||35||403||438||1307||135||303||438||2244||135||430||565|
|Eber||the region beyond||1723||34||430||464||1572||134||270||404||2639||134||270||404|
|Abram||exalted father||1948||100||—||175||2247||100||—||175||3414||100||—||175||Sarai; (Hagar); Keturah|
¹According to most interpretations, including the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews, Enoch did not die, but was taken away by God (at an age of 365). Genesis states that Enoch "walked with God; and he [was] not; for God took him."
Differences in the Genesis 5 numbers
A comparison of the Genesis 5 numbers (Adam through Noah) in the above table shows that the ages when the sons were born plus the remainders equal the totals given in each version, but each version uses different numbers to arrive at these totals. The three versions agree on some of the total ages at death, but many of the other numbers differ by exactly 100. The Septuagint numbers for the ages of the fathers at the birth of their sons, are in many instances 100 greater than the corresponding numbers in the other two versions.
The Samaritan chronology has Jared and Methuselah dying in Noah's 600th year, the year of the Flood. The Masoretic chronology also has Methuselah dying in Noah’s 600th year, but the Masoretic version uses a different chronology than the Samaritan version. The Lucianic text of the Septuagint has Methuselah surviving the Flood and therefore the 100 year differences were not an attempt by the Septuagint editors to have Jared, Methuselah, or Lamech die during or prior to the Flood. Some scholars argue that the differences between the Masoretic and Septuagint chronologies in Genesis 5 can be explained as alterations designed to rationalize a primary Masoretic system of chronology to a later Septuagint system. According to another scholar, to assume that the Masoretic Text is primary "is a mere convention for the scholarly world" and "it should not be postulated in advance that MT reflects the original text of the biblical books better than the other texts."
The Genesis 5 numbers were presumably intended to be read at face value, as years and not months, because attempts to rationalize the numbers by translating "years" as "months" results in some of the Genesis 5 people fathering children when they were five years old (if the Masoretic chronology is assumed to be primary).
The scholarly translation of the Hebrew Pentateuch into Greek at Alexandria, Egypt in about 280 BC worked from a Hebrew text that was edited in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. This would be centuries older than the proto–Masoretic Text selected as the official text by the Masoretes.
The Priestly source illustrates history in Genesis by compiling the genealogy beginning with the "generations of the heavens and the earth" and continuing through Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac to the descendants of Jacob's son Esau. Jacob's descendants are listed in Genesis 46:8-27, beginning with the phrase "these are the names."
- Hall, Jonathan, Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity Cambridge U.Press, 1997.
- Malkin, Irad, editor, Ancient Perceptions of Greek Ethnicity in series Center for Hellenic Studies Colloquia, 5. Harvard University Press, 2001. Reviewed by Margaret C. Miller in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2002
- Custance, Arthur C., The Roots of the Nations.
- Schmandt-Besserat, Denise, How Writing Came About, University of Texas Press, 1996, ISBN 0-292-77704-3.
- Etz, Donald V., "The Numbers of Genesis V 3-31: a Suggested Conversion and Its Implications", Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 43, No. 2, 1994, pages 171–187.
- Sexton, Jeremy (2015). "Who Was Born When Enosh Was 90? A Semantic Reevaluation of William Henry Green's Chronological Gaps". Westminster Theological Journal. 77: 193–218.
- John Skinner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis, T&T Clark, Endinburgh (original edition 1910, this edition 1930), p. 134.
- Cornwall and Stelman Smith, The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names
- Hebrews 11:5, King James Version.
- Genesis 5:24, King James Version.
- Ralph W. Klein, "Archaic Chronologies and the Textual History of the Old Testament", Harvard Theol Review, 67 (1974), pp. 255-263.
- Gerhard Larsson, "The Chronology of the Pentateuch: A Comparison of the MT and LXX", Journal of Biblical Literature, 102 (1983), pp. 401-409.
- Emanual Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), pp. 11, 352.
- Joseph Blenkinsopp, The Pentateuch, Doubleday (1992), p. 74, ISBN 0-385-41207-X.
- Charles M. Laymon (editor), The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, Abingdon Press, Nashville (1971), p. 1227.
- Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (1992), pp. 11, 352.
- Coogan, Michael David. The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures. THIRD ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 78
- Hasel, G.F., 1980. "The meaning of the chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11", Origins 7(2):53–70.
- Sexton, Jeremy. "Who Was Born When Enosh Was 90? A Semantic Reevaluation of William Henry Green's Chronological Gaps," Westminster Theological Journal 77 (2015): 193-218 (pastorsexton.com/articles)