Bible Chronology:

Textual Differences in Chronology Reveals Design

(One of two documents)

 

 

There are three major OT textual types:

There are two major manuscript types for the complete Old Testament (OT): The Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) and the Greek Septuagint (LXX).

The MT was meticulously copied and passed down through the generations but is not necessarily in every minute detail the exact copy of the original. The LXX is a Greek translation of the OT and is much less reliable, especially when it comes to the recording of numbers in the text. For example, the LXX adds one hundred years to most patriarch's from Adam to Terah, thereby adding about 1500 years to the genealogy.

The third major ancient text type is the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP). As its name implies, it contains only the Pentateuch. The SP is clearly less reliable than the MT. Nevertheless, (as the Dead Sea Scrolls seem to show), the SP, along with the LXX, though corrupted, are still valuable in ascertaining the true original. 

However, so superior is the MT over the LXX and SP when it comes to numbers and genealogies in the OT that personally I would not have give their readings much weight except that the New Testament (NT) quotes the LXX at two important points (that affect chronology). Therefore, the LXX at these two points cannot be ignored. In a third instance, the problem is not related to any textual problem, but rather to interpretation. The martyr Steven (Acts 7:4) interprets Genesis11:27-12:1 in an unexpected manner, whereby he lengthens the chronology 60 years. (All this is explained in greater detail in Chronology.)

In summary, then, the NT differs from the MT in two instances; the (LXX) '130' years of Luke 3:36, and the (SP and LXX) '215' years of Gal 3:17, with a third variance of '60' years due to the interpretation of Genesis11:27-12:1 by the martyr Steven as recorded in Acts 7:4. These, then, are the sole three NT differences over the MT, or interpretation thereof. The total difference possible, therefore, is 405 years ( 130 + 60 + 215 = 405 years). However, the full difference of 405 years only influences the flood and creation dates. (The 215 affects how long Israel was in Egypt, and the 130 & 60 affects the period between the flood and Abraham's call out of Ur, so that the accumulative total of 405 thus affects the flood and creation.) 

 

The affects of these three NT variances on OT chronology:

After carefully pondering these three variations in chronology, I can only marvel at the wisdom of God that saw fit to have it so. Bible chronology was intended to be far more than a mere time line of events, it is a three dimensional cube, yes, it's a multi-dimensional image. This has led me to speculate that linear time is more a matter of perspective than it is the only reality. But you may conclude differently, and that's all right, but one thing's for sure---the mind numbing patterns are there. This three dimensional bible chronology contains unending numerical patterns that admittedly kept me rather hooked on them for a number of years.

 

An important side note: 

One of the great contentions in chronology is the question of when to date the exodus. In my chronology, I use that date excepted by the majority of modern bible-believing scholars (i.e., 1446 BC). But I hasten to add that for much of the study in the numbers, this question is irrelevant, for many of the patterns exist irregardless of what date is assigned them. Many patterns are internally present within the text itself, and not contingent upon establishing their exact date in history. 

For instance, the bible has Noah's life divided into into a 480 + 120 (= 600)-year pattern. Using the max. 405-chronology, this means that there are another 480 years till Abraham's birth, and then 720 more till the exodus, and then 480 more till Solomon's temple (1Kgs. 6:1). This leads to a 480 + 120 + 480 + 720 + 480 pattern. Not only are all these numbers divisible by 120---an important number at the flood, exodus, and monarchy over all Israel---but they create a 600 and 1,200 pattern two ways each, and a 1,080 (3 x 360) + 720 (2 x 360) pattern, etc. (See "A Bible-Prophecy Year is 360 Days.") Also, the total time from Noah's birth until when Solomon finished building are 2300 years, (cf., Daniel. 8:14). 

All these patterns (and thousands more like them), are unaffected by whether or not an exact date can be assigned them---they can stand alone since they are based internally upon the bible's own chronology, and are true no matter when one assigns them in actual linear time. Surely, what these patterns mean are more important than the mere plotting of them down on some time-line. Nonetheless, I personally am confident that the majority view of the scholars is correct, that is that the exodus was in c. 1446 BC. This means that the temple was begun 480 years later (966 BC), and that 480 x 2 years after that would be the conception/birth of the Messiah (6 BC). Hence, the 120 and 480-patterns continue unabated even when placed in actual time. But if one contends these dates, the other said patterns remain true; they are an important aid in bible interpretation. (For the significance of the 480-year cycles see, "How the Leap Months are Regulated in the Bible-Prophecy Calendar.")

 

A closer look at the 405-year chronological margin that the NT creates:

As said, there are three major exceptions to the otherwise standard use of the MT for chronology, that result from NT revelation. They are the (SP and LXX) '215' years of Gal 3:17, the '60' years of Acts 7:4, and the (LXX) '130' years of Luke 3:36,  a total possible span of 405 years. These three variations are familiar to those who study these things. Usually students of bible prophecy numbers or chronology will pick their favorite combination of the above three to suite whatever theory or bible-number pattern they may have in mind. Typically, there is an attempt to make an even 4000 years from the creation to Christ. These three variations produce 8 different possibilities within the total margin of 405 years. However, they affect only dates from the flood to the creation, (though the 215 of Gal. 3:17 also affects the period from the flood to the entry into Egypt in 1661 or 1876 BC.)

It was my delightful discover that this seemingly hopeless case of 8 major competing dates for the creation and the flood did in fact complimented one another. But most importantly, I realized that the outer margins of these 8 possibilities are the key dates from which the other 6 find their bearing. (This is examined in Chronology.) This greatly simplified things, while at the same time opening the door for unimaginable complexity. 

Personally, I rarely venture beyond the 405-year margins---that is, the maximum and minimum dates for the creation, and for the flood. These max. and min. dates alone are enough to keep one engaged in endless study. Nevertheless, the other six in-between (minor) ones do exist, and interlock with one another.

 

The 405-year margin has its counterpart in the 405 years 
that exists from Isaac's birth unto the exodus, 
with the same breakdown of 60, 130, and 215 (= 405) years

 

Some speculate that there are exactly 400 years from Isaac's birth till the exodus based upon Genesis 15:13, 16:

"And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years." 

"And in the fourth generation they shall come hither again; for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full." 

Most scholars correctly take this figure to be a round number for 430 years, as given in Ex. 12:40, 41.

"Now the time that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. 
And it came to pass at the end of four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of Jehovah went out from the land of Egypt." 

The expressions "fourth generation" (Genesis 15:16), and "selfsame day" (Ex. 12:41), are strong evidence that the scholars are correct, for this first phrase (i.e., "fourth generation") implies a general period of time, whereas the second phrase (i.e., "selfsame day") is clearly specific.

Those few who insist that the 400-years is an exact period of time---stretching from Isaac's birth (i.e., "thy seed," Genesis 15:13) to the exodus, also must rely on the LXX (with NT) reading of Ex. 12:40, where the text reduces the length of time in Egypt in half, or 215 years. 

 

It should be noted that the cutting in half of the length of time spent in Egypt seems purely coincidental. The LXX merely reads that the "430 years" went from "the time that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt and Canaan..." thus it spanned from the time Abraham entered the land of Canaan (instead of when Israel into Egypt), until the exodus. 

Still, a few others say that it began from when Isaac entered Canaan after sojourning in Haran. I personally am convinced that it is figuratively both, but with the MT the actual reading, however that is the subject of another discussion. 

 

If we take the 400 years of Genesis 15:13 as simply a round number, but use the LXX (with NT) reading---"in Egypt and Canaan"---then the time-span between Isaac's birth (i.e., "thy seed") till the exodus amounts to 405 years. (Those who insist on an exact 400 years must assume that Abram's calling out from Ur occurred 5 years before he actually obeyed. But this assumption contradicts the plain meaning of the text. The LXX does not read, 'From when he was called to leave Ur until the exodus was 430 years,' but instead reads, "The time...in Egypt and Canaan was 430 years.")

 

Surely, it is more than coincidental that this breakdown of the 405 years (between Isaac and the exodus) just happens to be the same as the breakdown of the 405 of the max/min margins created by the NT. Both are 215 + 60 + 130 = 405 years, and both have a similar theme! Their agreement is indeed a strong indication that the total 405-NT variance is intentional. Is God the author of coincidences, or of design? But there is yet greater evidence that the chronological margin is by design.

 

 

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Textual Differences in Chronology Reveals Design

 

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