A Question I Was Asked:



Can You Clarify Genesis 11:12 For Me? Is It 35 or 135 Years?







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Can You Clarify Genesis 11:12 For Me?

JPS Tanakh 1917 ( the Masoretic Bible ):
And Arpachshad lived five and thirty years, and begot Shelah.

Brenton Septuagint Translation ( the Septuagint Bible ):
And Arphaxad lived a hundred and thirty-five years, and begot Cainan

So did the original text say 35 years or 135 years ? How do you know ? Which is the wrong text ?
And did the original text say Shelah or Cainan ? How do you know ? And what is the wrong text ?

If the Septuagint text is wrong , is Luke 3:36 an error ? Because it seems that Luke 3:36 is a quote from the Septuagint text of Genesis 11:12.


UK Apologetics Reply:


Okay, this is a famously difficult one and I am not going to give you a definitive answer here but invite you to compare a few translations; then we will look at Luke; since Luke was something of a historian I think we can consider him to be authoritative. Finally, I will make a few concluding comments about the Bible copyists and about translation. Regarding Genesis 11:12, just bear in mind that no major teaching or point of doctrine rests on any of this.

So let us consider how the various Bible translations handle this:

New International Version:
When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah.

KJV:
And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah:

Darby Bible Translation:
And Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Shelah.

World English Bible:
Arpachshad lived thirty-five years and became the father of Shelah.

Young's Literal Translation:
And Arphaxad hath lived five and thirty years, and begetteth Salah.

Webster:
And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah.

ASV:
And Arpachshad lived five and thirty years, and begat Shelah: 

JUB:
  And Arphaxad lived thirty-five years and begat Salah;

DRB:
And Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Sale. 

Apostolic Bible Polyglot:
And Arphaxad lived a hundred thirty five years, and he procreated Caina.

ESV
When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah.

GNB
When Arpachshad was 35 years old, he had a son, Shelah; 


Okay, so as we can see here, of the few translations I was able to quickly consult, only one supported '135 years,' the others supported '35 years.'


Now Luke 3:36:

the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, (NIV).

Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech, (KJV).

Who was of Cainan, who was of Arphaxad, who was of Sem, who was of Noe, who was of Lamech, (DR American version).

the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, (ASV).


A Possible Explanation

Caina (or, Cainan), seems to be the correct name to use here as Luke underlines, but was Shelah (or, Salah), an alternative name, or a family name? Possibly. I once knew a family whose son was 'Philip,' but he was almost unanimously referred to as 'Bry' within the family, but was Philip to his friends. The late J.F. Kennedy was 'Jack' within his family, I understand but he was actually 'John.' There is really no difficulty anywhere here except over the discrepancy between 35 years and 135 years which could be a copyist's error. The Bible is 100% reliable but just a very few copyist's errors have occurred here and there. This is because God used men - ordinary men - to compile it. If no such error occured anywhere would that not be highly suspicious?

Another point here: since you (my questioner) feel that Luke quotes the Septuagint (Greek language Old Testament), that does not necessarily mean that he is using it to back up the '135 years' of that version, he is only using it to support the name of 'Cainan' and the general reference. As we may see the overwhelming majority of Bible translations consider that '35 years' is correct and that '135 years' is due to a copyist's error. One should bear in mind that Bible translators are normally a board of scholars - not just one or two people - who are required to agree on the correct translation of a sentence; moreover, there are - it has been estimated - 8,198 Hebrews words used in the Old Testament, but most of these are used many, many times so one is probably looking at close on a million words! The copyists and, indeed, the translators have not done a bad job!

Robin A. Brace. October 6th, 2019.

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