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Research Topics

Genesis 5 and 11 Research Project 1200x600

Project Goal:

To determine if Genesis 5 and 11 and other directly relevant biblical texts yield a calculable chronology of human history from Adam to Abraham. If such a chronology can be constructed, a main goal of the project will then be to establish an approximate B.C. date for the Flood, and a chronology for the time period between the Flood and Abraham (Genesis 11:10-32). These dates can then be correlated with historically grounded, non carbon-14 based, archaeological data from this time period, serving an important apologetic purpose.

Project Description:

Although this subject had never previously been an area of focus for our research staff, ABR has always affirmed the historicity of the Genesis 5 and 11 patriarchs. Historically, the general view of the ABR staff has been that there was some fluidity (gaps) in the genealogical data from Genesis 5 and 11, but the data could not be understood to date the Flood beyond 4000 or 5000 BC at most. The general tenets of this viewpoint can be found in the appendix of The Genesis Flood, by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris, and in the seminal article, Primeval Chronology, published by William Henry Green of Princeton Theological Seminary in 1890. Based mainly on archaeological considerations, ABR founder Dr. David Livingston placed the Flood around 3000 B.C.

We concluded during our initial investigations that the fluidity view (chronological gaps in the genealogies) is exegetically and hermeneutically untenable, and that the arguments offered in favor of chronological gaps in Gen 5 and 11 are inadequate. This project aims to include:

  1. A close and in-depth exegetical analysis of Genesis 5 and 11, along with other directly relevant biblical texts.

  2. It is no surprise that liberal-critical scholars reject the historicity of the patriarchal narratives, and particularly the begetting ages and lifespans of the men listed in Genesis 5 and 11. Esoteric interpretations such as secret numerical systems or dependence upon Mesopotamian sexagesimal numbering are found throughout the academic literature. In recent times, a number of evangelical scholars have argued that the numbers do not refer to actual ages, but are intended to bring honor to these great men of old. This is particularly the case for Genesis 5, but in some instances, this kind of interpretation has now been extended to include Abraham’s lifespan of 175 years (Genesis 25:7–8). This particular perspective requires that the sacred text cannot be understood properly without modern, specialized knowledge of ancient Near Eastern archaeological discoveries and texts, most of which are from Mesopotamia. Dependence on these outside "authorities" is a deeply flawed hermeneutic that not only places the external evidence in a position of authority over the sacred text, it violates vital doctrines of Scripture: authority, clarity, and sufficiency. This construct necessarily means that the Church and her Jewish predecessors were unable to properly understand vast portions of the Genesis narratives, since they had no access to the “keys” which unlock the real meaning of the sacred text. The true meaning of the numbers in Genesis 5 and 11 (and now, even Abraham’s numbers) has been beyond the reach of God’s people until modern scholars (such as John Walton) came along to reveal the truth to us. This hermeneutical “key” to the numbers in Genesis 5 and 11 is not derived from Scripture itself, but is entirely based on fallible and fallen human interpretations of pagan mythologies and other ancient texts and material culture from the ANE. Moreover, systematic and biblical theology must be pushed aside to make way for the hermeneutical priority of modern scholarly interpretations of ANE literature and material culture (and all the attendant and often erroneous assumptions that are bound up with that perspective). It is not a stretch to say this is a modern form of Gnosticism in PhD garb. An evolutionary instead of biblical anthropology is what ultimately governs this kind of hermeneutical approach to Genesis 5 and 11. Chapter One of “From Adam to Abraham” will provide considerable analysis and an in-depth critique and refutation of this troubling (and ultimately dangerous) hermeneutic.

  3. A thorough text-critical investigation of the Genesis 5 and 11 data in the Masoretic Text, the Septuagint, and the Samaritan Pentateuch. All three of these ancient witnesses have divergent numbers in the genealogies of both Genesis 5 and 11. Most of the divergences cannot be explained by accidental scribal errors. The texts have been deliberately changed. Part of our research will endeavor to propose potential reasons the texts were deliberately altered. These numerical divergences go back to at least the 2nd century AD. Modern conservative scholars have generally defaulted to the MT's numbers, but most treatments are superficial and inadequate. Liberal-critical scholars believe that the divergences present an intractable problem for those who hold to a high view of Scripture, and the chronological/textual matrix cannot be coherently reconstructed. This project would challenge that perspective.

  4. A text-critical investigation into the veracity of Kainan in Luke 3:36 and Genesis 11:13b-14b.

  5. A study of the relevant extra-biblical references to the numbers in Genesis 5 and 11 in ancient Jewish writings and the early Church Fathers. In particular, the references in Flavius Josephus will be closely examined, since his works present one of the earliest extra-biblical witnesses to Gen 5 and 11.

  6. The potential bearing, if any, of extra-biblical, ancient Near Eastern genealogies on our interpretation of Genesis 5 and 11.

  7. Based on preliminary investigations, an acceptance of the matching SP/LXX begetting ages of each patriarch as the original text of Genesis 11 (sans Kainan) would put the Flood somewhere between 3150 to 3300 BC (depending on the exclusion/inclusion of Kainan as original). The begetting age for each patriarch is the key number for calculating the chronology of this era. This range would, preliminarily, be the outer possible range for the date of the Flood.

  8. If solid biblical dates can be established for the pre-Abrahamic era, important archaeological discoveries from this time period will be investigated, such as the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, Nimrod, and other relevant pre-Abrahamic evidences.

  9. We will attempt to publish articles in non-ABR journals and publications for the purpose of exposing ABR to other constituencies and to advance the viability of our research. Articles will also be (re)published on our website and in Bible and Spade.

Published Articles (as of June 2019):

This page was last updated October 2019

Proposed Genesis Timeline

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ABRT 28 | 8/1/2019