The Septuagint (along with the Samaritan Pentateuch) and Flavius Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities allow for about 6 to 7 hundred more years from our days back to the Flood (which accordingly would date back to the 31st century b.c. - there are some variants).

The Masoretic textual tradition sets about the 24th century as date of the flood cataclysm. That makes it hard for any early chronology of mankind to appear historical for anyone inclined towards the biblical account. Most translations regard the Masoretic numbers as the most reliable ones. However, they appear to be the latest, since Flavius Josephus (a prominent Pharisee and historian of the first century) does not know the Masoretic numbers.

What motivated the Rabbis/Masoretes to change the numbers and shorten the early chronology of mankind?

An English translation of the relevant chapter (Genesis 11) can be seen here: (corrected in acc. with Flav.Jos. Ant.Jud., Theophilus, Africanus, Eusebius, who used an older version of Septuagint, 1st to 3rd cent. and (oldest, 2nd cent.) Papyrus Bodmer´s Luke 3:36, which do not have that second, later inserted Kainan)

10 And these are the generations of Sem:
Sem was a son of one hundred years
when he became the father of Arphaxad, in the second year after the flood.
12 And Arphaxad lived one hundred thirty-five (MT: thirty-five) years
and became the father of Sala.
14 And Sala lived one hundred thirty (MT: thirty) years
and became the father of Eber.
16 And Eber lived one hundred thirty-four (MT: thirty-four) years
and became the father of Phalek.
18 And Phalek lived one hundred thirty (MT: thirty) years
and became the father of Ragau.
20 And Ragau lived one hundred thirty-two (MT: thirty-two) years
and became the father of Serouch.
22 And Serouch lived one hundred thirty (MT: thirty) years
and became the father of Nachor.
24 And Nachor lived seventy-nine (MT: twenty-nine) years
and became the father of Thara.
26 And Thara lived seventy years (130 years -> Abram)
and became the father of Abram and Nachor and Harran.

Flavius Josephus writes in his 6th book:

  1. I will now treat of the Hebrews. The son of Phaleg, whose
    father Was Heber, was Ragau; whose son was Serug, to whom was
    born Nahor; his son was Terah, who was the father of Abraham, who
    accordingly was the tenth from Noah, and was born in the two
    hundred and ninety-second year after the deluge;
    for Terah begat Abram in his seventieth year.
    Nahor begat Haran when he was one hundred and twenty years old;
    Nahor was born to Serug in his hundred and thirty-second year;
    Ragau had Serug at one hundred and thirty;
    at the same age also Phaleg had Ragau;
    Heber begat Phaleg in his hundred and thirty-fourth year;
    he himself being begotten by Sala when he was a hundred and thirty years old,
    whom Arphaxad had for his son at the hundred and thirty-fifth year of his age. Arphaxad was the son of Shem, and born twelve years after the deluge.

Is the Septuagint (and Flavius Josephus') chronology inflated, as almost every translation of the bible seems to maintain, or is—on the contrary—the Masoretic Text deflated for some reason?

For instance, this Wikipedia article shows the differences for some of the genealogies in Genesis:

Differences in dating

  • 2
    Wikipedia has a very nice table of the dates given the Masoretic, Samaritan, and Septuagint versions of Genesis. Note that there are some inconsistencies concerning who survived the flood if you take the Septuagint ages at face value.
    – Noah
    Commented Apr 28, 2013 at 19:50
  • 1
    I can't seem to find anything written about what the Dead Sea Scrolls have for these chronologies. Can anyone else?
    – Noah
    Commented Apr 28, 2013 at 20:00
  • 2
    @Noah Snyder: The Dead Sea Scrolls do not contain anything from Genesis 5 or 11, except for a few fragmentary words that do not side with one against the other.
    – user2350
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 19:47
  • I addressed this in detail here. academia.edu/8505148/…
    – user10438
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 13:37
  • 1
    Septuagintal chronology, which places the events described in the story of Cain and Abel at around 5500 BC, fits best with the scientific timeline of the Neolithic Revolution in the Middle East (around 7000 BC), which saw the rise of farmers, and their inevitable violent clash with nomadic shepherds, whose sheep and cattle oftentimes infringed on their cultivated fields. If Adam and Eve represent hunter-gatherers (Gen. 1:29; 3:21), Cain and Abel embody agriculture.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 5:31

10 Answers 10


Both textual traditions (along with the Samaritan Pentateuch, which has similarities with each) predate Christianity by centuries. Basically, texts, whether religious, or otherwise, present a rainbow-like distribution in terms of variation.

To illustrate this by way of a basic example, for the purpose of clarification:

Notice also that the Hebrew puts 1656 years from Adam to Noah's Flood, whereas the Septuagint has either 1642 or 1662 years (textual variation of Genesis 5:25, LXX) spanning from Adam to Noah's birth. (Notice also that 1656 stands almost midway between 1642 and 1662). Both versions seem to agree that there were about 16 1/2 centuries from Adam until Noah's time, and the disagreement appears to stem from the fact that the former identifies this with the Flood, which occurred during his lifetime, whereas the latter matches it to his birth.

As for the post-deluvian patriarchs, notice how the Greek text spans exactly 1000 years from the birth of the first man after the Flood to the birth of Abraham's father, Terah, whereas the Masoretic ascribes only 290 years from Noah's Flood to the birth of Terah's first offspring. Why is this relevant ? Because while 1000 constitutes a very round decimal value, 1656 and 290 are just as beautiful from a duodecimal perspective; thus, the former is half a century (122 / 2 = 72) short of a millennium (123 = 1728), whereas the latter (290) represents nothing else than the decimal approximation of two centuries (2 x 122 = 288). If Abraham was indeed born when Terah was 70 years old, as a simplistic interpretation of Genesis 11:26 would have us believe, then, according to Genesis 12:4-5, this would place 145 years between the birth of Terah, and Abraham's entrance into the land of Canaan, which is incredibly close to 122 = 144.

See also my answer to this question.

  • @Bach: Link.
    – Lucian
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 12:39
  • @Bach: A related post.
    – Lucian
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 18:08
  • @Bach: After reading your answer, which appears to argue for a literal reading of biblical chronology, I thought it appropriate to share with you my view on the subject; also, the above-linked post does not link back here, because it has no reason to.
    – Lucian
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 6:49

     I propose that the variations seen in the genealogies of Genesis arose from an effort to praise or villify certain patriarchs. Specifically, there is evidence of a motivation to praise the first five generations from Adam to Mahalalel, and to villify Jared, Methuselah, and Lamech. I refer to the Wikipedia chart given above in my argument.

     The Septuagint added 100 years to the birthdates of the first five patriarchs versus the dates which appear in the Masoretic and Samaritan texts. By adding 100 years to the birthdates of the first five patriarchs, this shifts their times of death to before the birth of Jared (960) and the generations of Methuselah and Lamech. Shifting these dates could have been a way of changing the text to reflect what the traditional interpretation was at the time.

     On the other hand, the Masoretic and Vulgate texts do not separate Jared's birthdate from the earlier generations. However, the Masoretic text added 100, 120, and 129 years, respectively, to the birthdates of Jared, Methuselah and Lamech. This places the dates of death for these three patriarchs at the years 1422, 1656 and 1651. The time of the flood occurred when Noah was 600 years old, which was the year 1656 in the Masoretic text. Clearly, the text implies that Jared and Methusaleh perished in the flood, although Jared appears to have died before it happened. The tradition of not holding these three patriarchs in high regard is also evident in the Samaritan text. Here we find that all three perished in 1307, the exact same date as Noah's flood, according to that text.

     There may a lingering question about Enoch. The biblical text mentions that Enoch walked with G-d, so there would be no motivation for placing his death near the flood.

     I would like to cite this paper I found online, which spurned my thinking on this question:

  • Actually jewish tradition says that God waited for Metushalah to die before bringing the flood. There is a jewish custom to sit down 7 days on a man that passed away, and you can see in the verses that God tells Noah that he will bring the flood after 7 days.
    – Kapandaria
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 8:49

There are many answers here but most of them are based on pure speculation and fanciful theories with no evidence to back them. So I decided to post a scholarly based answer here. I hope this will be of help to anyone researching this fascinating topic.

Conspiracy theory is lacking evidence

The scholarly consensus is that the three recensions of the antediluvian and postdiluvian chronology of the patriarchs (SP, MT, LXX) were not doctored by some Rabbis or any other group of scribes after the death of Christ, contrary to what the OP implies in his question. That is pure conspiracy theory and highly implausible (HB Smith is one of many who propagate this myth), no group of scribes that late would've possibly been able to get away with such big scale revision of the biblical text. Instead these revisions or recensions date back to way before the Septuagint was translated (3rd century BCE) or the MT standardized. Scholars (So Klein, Hendel, Tov) properly refer to these recensions as proto-MT proto-LXX and so forth, because they evolved way before these texts morphed into their current form. The Rabbis or the Masoretes of the MT did not change the text or anything, but they received these chronologies in their current corrupted MT form, lock stock and barrel. And the same goes for the LXX translators, they didn't change anything but were working with a text that has already been corrupted centuries before.

The most plausible and convincing theory I've seen so far is the one advanced by Ralph Klein, which anyone can read here. I will summarize it shortly, and I will focus primarily on the antediluvian chronology.

But first it is important to note that with the exception of Lamech, the LXX and MT both agree on the total lifespan of the patriarchs from Adam-Lamech, but disagree in regards to the age of fathering, the LXX usually adds 100 years to the age of fathering (which subsequently pushes off the onset of the flood by a 100 years) and subtracts 100 years from the remainder, so the total lifespan is retained both by the MT and the LXX. The SP however has a shortened lifespan for Jared Methushelah and Lamech (the three problematic patriarchs), as we will discuss below.

Klein's theory: Evidence from the SP

Now in regards to the lifespan it is quite easy to ascertain what the original text (which Klein calls the archetype) had. According to the SP the flood occurs at the year 1307; in a bizarre way all three aforementioned patriarchs die in exactly that year according to the SP (which by itself seems very suspicious), a peculiarity not found in the LXX or the MT, it seems obvious that the text in the SP has been tampered with and doctored to resolve a flood related issue, and that the LXX and MT are more authentic, at least in regards to the lifespans of the patriarchs which they both seem to agree on (with the exception of Lamech; see end of post).

The Notorious Flood Problem

Klein proposes that in the archetype Jared Methushelah and Lamech all survived the flood, this posed an obvious problem as it seemed inconsistent with the flood narrative which implies that no one except for Noah and his children survived the flood, so this was dealt with in different ways. The proto-SP as we have already seen did straightforward doctoring, they shortened the lifespan of the three problematic patriarchs and eliminated the problem altogether. The proto-MT and proto-LXX however dealt with this differently. Instead of shortening the lifespan, they just moved up the age of fathering of certain patriarchs, this delayed the onset of the flood by a few hundred years and at the same time retained the lifespan as recorded in the archetype. However the proto-LXX and proto-MT don't agree completely, they each put a slightly different spin on it.

The Archetype: Reconstructing the original text

According to Klein, in the archetype the flood occurred in 1342 (closest to the SP value), but Jared Methushelah and Lamech's lifespans were too long as they survived long after 1342 (see list below). To resolve this inconsistency the proto-MT added 100 years only to Jared Methushelah and Lamech, the three problematic patriarchs (in the case of Methushelah they added 120 years. Indeed he dies in the year 1656, the year the flood occurs according to the MT's chronology), the rest were left as they were in the original text, since they posed no problem at all. The proto-LXX however, perhaps to ensure consistency added 100 years to all the patriarchs; while this takes care of Jared and Lamech, the problem persists with Methushelah as he survives 14 years after the flood. This remains a problem for Klein's hypothesis. Klein speculates that the proto-LXX scribes were not comfortable with adding tens of years (as the proto-MT added: 120), only hundreds. Thus the Methushelah problem remained unresolved in the text of the LXX. Klein himself notes that this explanation is not so satisfactory, and leaves the question open as to why the proto-LXX added 100 years to each of the patriarchs.

This is how Klein reconstructs the hypothetical age of fathering (f) for the three problematic patriarchs in the archetype:

 1. Jared: f. 62 (A.M. 522.) Total lifespan 962. (522-1422)
 2. Methushelah: f. 67 (A.M. 654) Total lifespan 969. (654-1556)
 3. Lamech: f. 88 (A.M. 742) Total lifespan 753. (742-1407)
    Flood (A.M. 1342) 

(To find the time of the flood always add 600 to the corresponding time period (A.M.) of f of Lamech. In this case it's 742 + 600 = 1342)

As anyone can see, the proto-LXX just added 100 years to f of all the three patriarchs, and the proto-MT added 100 to f for Jared and Lamech, and 120 for Methuselah, as 100 wasn't enough to resolve the flood problem (Indeed the flood inconsistency remains in the LXX). Proto-SP kept the original value of f for Jared and Methushelah, but not for Lamech, this was probably due to scribal error, and not intentional (see Klein p. 261-2).


That the motive of those who doctored the proto-SP text was to synthesize the lifespan of the patriarchs with the flood narrative is clearly evident from the fact that the SP follows the MT and the LXX for all the lifespans of the patriarchs from Adam-Lamech except for Jared Methushelah and Lamech which all end coincidentally at 1307 the year of the flood. This clearly betrays the motive for the three recensions. While this motive is not readily apparent in the MT and LXX, it is safe to assume that they all share a similar motive. Especially since the MT also somewhat gives this away in the lifespan of Methushelah which coincidentally ends the same year of the flood, 1656 (this was achieved by adding 120 years to the age of fathering for Methushelah as we discussed above). There's no need for further speculation as to why the proto-LXX and proto-MT added hundreds of years to the then-existing chronology, or why the SP shortened the lifespans of certain patriarchs, when we study the SP and MT and LXX together and compare them, the motive is clearly revealed: to synthesize as much as possible the chronologies in Gen. 5 with the flood narrative.

The Postdiluvian Chronology in Gen. 11

Unfortunately, the motive for the chronological recensions in gen. 11 (in the LXX, SP and MT) is not as easy to discern. The LXX and SP both add 100 to almost all of the patriarchs and 50 to Nahor. Klein favors the MT in almost all instances, and ascribes most of the LXX variant dates for f to scribal errors, but I remain unconvinced. While Klein's hypothesis for the antediluvian patriarchs is well supported from the texts, evidence is lacking for the postdiluvian patriarchs.

@Hannes' theory - that the proto-MT deflated the years for f so that Abraham would be the only one fathering miraculously at 100 - at first seems plausible, but it doesn't seem to account for the deflation of Nahor in the MT (since the f for Nahor in LXX and SP are both 79, well below 100), or why the original f value for Shem was retained in the MT, since Shem's fathering at 100 technically poses a problem as well in this framework. Although similar problems were posed in our "flood problem theory" above (in the LXX the age of Methuselah remains a problem), there were other evidence to point this way, whereas over here no such evidence exist. Klein and Tov suggest a proto-LXX inflation theory for most of the postdiluvian fathers, and the motive, according to them, is that no more than four generations should be alive at the same time, since in the MT Shem and Eber are still alive during Jacob's lifetime, this may have been viewed as a problem by the proto-LXX and proto-SP scribes (The MT's chronology would obviously create tension in the text that states that Abraham died an "old man" and "full of years", as Shem and Eber both outlive him!), and this was achieved through inflating the value of f for most of the patriarchs by a 100 and 50 for Nahor. While this theory is surely likely, further evidence is lacking.

So to summarize, the postdiluvian chronology seems to be a double edged sword, if we add years to f consistently (as we find in the LXX) to mitigate the problem of Abraham dying prematurely we create a different problem, namely the problem of Abraham not being the only patriarch fathering at 100. Similarly, if we deduct years from f consistently to mitigate that factor, then Abraham dies prematurely as Shem and Eber outlive him. Both of these scenarios are not favorable. It's hard to determine what was the original chronology, and which of these inconsistencies were deemed more problematic to the proto-MT and proto-LXX scribes enough to warrant a uniform emendation of the text.

It should be noted, that unlike gen. 5 where LXX and MT both agree on the total lifespan, in gen. 11 LXX's total lifespan is almost always 100 years more than the MT, and in some cases even more. The reason for that is simple, because unlike the antediluvian chronology in gen. 5, the postdiluvian chronology in gen. 11 does not summarize the total amount of years for each patriarch, thus the proto-LXX does not feel obligated to subtract the 100 years it added to f from the remaining years of the patriarch as they had to do with the chronology in gen. 5 to retain the total amount of years which was clearly summarized in the text.

It should be noted that in the case of Lamech's age for f, which is 182 vs. 188, Klein sides with the LXX age of 188, and ascribes the 182 of the MT to a scribal error. In regards to the lifespan of Lamech, the only case where the LXX disagrees with the MT, Klein sides again with the LXX which has 753, and ascribes the 777 of the MT to a conflation between the Lamech of 4:24 with the patriarch Lamech listed in the chronology chapter 5. However this remains speculative.


The Alexandrine Septuagint is the most reliable. It gives the birth of Adam as 5404 BC. The Flood is 3142 BC. The birth of Abraham in Urfa is 2142 BC. Exodus is 1453 BC. The Temple is started in 973 BC. It is destroyed in 586 BC. These dates are in alignment with both Egyptian and Sumerian chronologies, if you accept that Menes = Mizraim (as Manetho said) and that the Predynastic period of Sumerian hostory is an archaeological fantasy. Then Ham (son of Noah) is Sargon the Great (son of Ziusudra). The Shemsu Hor (followers of Horus) are the followers of Ham, and his son Mizraim (Menes) who invaded Egypt by dragging their ships overland from the Red Sea, refloating them at Kontos, and defeating the native Egyptians, and thus founding the first dynasty (Menes). Every archaeologist notices the distinctive Sumerian architecture at Abydos, burial place of the First Dynasty, but does not follow that clue to the origin of that dynasty in Sumer.

There is no doubt that the ages of the Patriarchs were altered, and we can pin down the era it was done in. Josephus starts writing his second book about 90 AD, and the lengths of his Patriarchs' lives agree with the Septuagint (except for Lamech, where he inexplicably makes an error of 6 years. Since we have no original manuscript, only later copies in Latin, this error could have been introduced by the translator.)

After Josephus' time, the Patriarchs' length of life is altered. The latest date for this alteration is the end of the rebellion of Bar Kochvah 132 - 135 AD. This entire period is under the religious control of rabbi Akiva, and it is to him that the alterations must be attributed. The reason for the changes is simple: competition from the growing Christian sect, who were using the Torah and other texts to argue for the reality of Jesus' fulfillment of the prohecy for the coming of the messiah. The Book of Adam and Eve was current around this time and it specifically states that God tells Adam that he will send a redeemer after 5500 years. Since Adam was born in 5404 BC (according to the Septuagint (LXX), that makes Bar Kosiba the right age (born about 96 AD). Rabbi Akiva proclaims him the messiah, changes his name to Bar Kochva, and he goes on to lead a massive rebellion against the Romans, which succeeds in throwing them out of the country for nearly 3 years. The Jews rejoice, re-sanctify Jerusalem, print coins with Bar Kochva on them, etc. However the Romans are not so easily defeated, and they return with 7 legions under Severus and proceed to march across the countryside, burning all the towns and killing all the inhabitants, rather than fighting the potent Messianic army head-on. This tactic succeeds, and the Jews are defeated again, Jerusalem is razed again and the majority of surviving Jews expelled from Judea. Thus begins the Diaspora.

Trying to pull things back together, Rabbi Akiva and his surviving rabbinic group make the determination to prevent the use of the Torah to proclaim another messiah, and they do this by altering the recorded lengths of the lives of the Patriarchs. Therefore, there is no 5500 years to Bar Kochva anymore, and in fact, it will be hundreds of years before the messiah can come.

The result of this rabbinical fudging unintentionally screwed up the acceptance of the Old Testament as a reliable source of chronology once archaeology got going 1800 years later. With the shortened masoretic chronology, the Exodus and occupation of Canaan take place 200 years too late. There is a paucity of archaological finds for the dating that the masoretic chronology produces. Therefore the scientists have said : "It was all a tribal fable". Even Jewish rabbis have been sucked into this false attitude, since they accept the masoretic text as inviolable. It is a fatal error.

If we go back to the Septuagint (LXX), which was sanctioned by the hierarchy in Jerusalem at the time it was translated (280 BC), and use the datings given there for the lives of the Patriarchs, suddenly everything falls into place. Not only is the Exodus in the correct Egyptian Dynasty (18th), but the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan is now in 1413 BC, which agrees with the radiocarbon dating of a burnt plank from Jericho that registered at 1410 BC.

Sumerian and Egyptian chronology can now be synced to Hebrew history, and we can even discover the exact date of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (2040 BC), in the reign of Hammurabi of Babylon. This is a revolution in achaeology. And it also means a re-evaluation of the veracity of the OT.

  • 1
    Welcome to Stack Exchange! If you haven't done so already, check out the site tour. In particular, be sure to read the section on what constitutes a good answer and revise your post to better cite your references. Please note that "showing your work" is required for answers to be considered "good" and get upvotes from the community on this Stack Exchange. This answer has some good observations, but could be made outstanding with a few links and a little exposition. Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 0:13
  • I'd be particularly interested in a reference for the claim that "Sumerian hostory is an archaeological fantasy" Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 0:15
  • I'd be quite interested in knowing a reference that gives the Greek more validity than the Hebrew.
    – seedy3
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 1:03
  • Like the others imply, I would upvote this if you add some references... The general rule here is that a good answer doesn't just say something is true, but also shows why one should believe that it is.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 15:31

I would propose the following approach:

For the time before the flood: Primacy of the Massoretic numbers. They have the greatest variance and most support by the Samaritan text (and in the three differing cases - Jared, Methuselah, Lamech - the Masoretic agrees or comes close to the Septuagint).

For the time after the flood: Primacy of Septuagint and Samaritan text, which agree in all instances. (The second Kainan does not appear in all Septuagint manuscripts, not in Josephus' chronology and not in the earliest manuscript containing Luke's genealogy of Jesus.)

The reason for the Massoretes to reduce the age of procreation for 100 years to (for that time) an unusually early age seems to be the following:

Abraham should stand out solitarily as the only one getting a son at his high age. (That the issue was actually more with his wife Sarah is seen in the account about the birth of Isaac, and later even more so, when Abraham had five more sons with Keturah at a much higher age.

The Massoretic numbers are historically impossible, because they do not allow enough time for Sumeric and Egyptian well (and written!) documented early history.

  • Hannes, I edited my answer below to include a discussion on your approach to the MT's chronology for the postdiluvain patriarchs, and the problems that remain with this theory, and alternative solutions as well.
    – bach
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 14:27

One of the important considerations of the various editors was the death of Methusela. The Masoretic and Samaritan texts have him dying on the year of the flood, though the way they get there is quite different. It is also an important consideration that none of the other patriarchs survive the flood, and so some traditions ensure that they all die before the flood, except Noah of course.


Babylonian numbers used a base 60 positional system, but it did not have a placeholder like '0'. There was in fact no difference between 10 and 600. This, along with difficulties in changing bases, appears to have created a number of varied interpretations in later documents. If Biblical authors tried to base their numbers on the original Sumerian records, there would be a good number of possibilities that they could choose. The biggest difficulty would be for them to try to get sane numbers from the crazy ages of the patriarchs in some interpretations of Sumerian records.

To me it would seem that sanity checking and making the ages fit Biblical stories would be major influences on the original authors, as well as editors, as the same constraints can be seen being fulfilled in multiple versions, though the particulars can be quite different.

The specific changes that you refer to appear to have been made much more recently, as they reflect base 10 alterations. I would guess that another round of sanity checking influenced the decision for patriarchs to have their first children in the 30s rather than after 100 years. (I'm using sanity checking as a technical, not pejorative term)

I'm afraid I can't really comment on any particular changes, or how well they fit other events, as it seems to me that any true time spans have been mistranslated and edited out of existence, even if the original Sumerian writings had them correct. They now have mostly symbolic meaning, though I would guess that sometimes the extra stories that gave them meaning often did not make it into the final Biblical documents and so have also been lost.


You state:

That makes it hard for any early chronology of mankind to appear historical for anyone inclined towards the biblical account.

This appears to be a problematic hermeneutic technique, to decide on the more reliable text based on which fits your preferred timeline. It is clear that various authors, copyists, compilers, and editors have changed things, including lifespans, but I think it is better practice to look at the best evidence about the texts themselves, rather than fitting texts around ideas gained from other sources.

BTW, I studied Sumerian history and pre-history last year with my kids, and didn't see anything about an unusually large 3100BC flood, basically uninterrupted habitation with regular major flooding between the rivers, but not of civilisation destroying magnitude. 3100BC is in the middle of a reasonable populous and prosperous period, just before the development of the Bronze Age.

I've heard of a theory of a 5500BC flood in a close by area - the fabled Black Sea Deluge - but that doesn't help fit your chronology either. Where was the flood you are referring to?


First of all, let us note that this is a clear case of loaded question, as we could just as well ask "Why did the scribes translating the Septuagint add 100 (or 50) years to the age of the fathers at their first sons' dates of birth?".

Having said that, I endorse Bach's answer. Since the study by Klein he links to is behind a paywall, I provide a reference to a freely accessible study by Hendel which in turn refers to the former [1].

I make only 2 amendments to Bach's answer (FA = fathering age):

  1. Lamech's archetypal lifespan was 777, forming the pattern:

Position in list, FA, lifespan = 9, 88, 777.

This pattern originated on the likely homologous pattern for the Lamech in the primal Yahwist (J) genealogy through Cain:

Position in list, FA, lifespan = 7, 77, 777.

When P reworked the genealogy from J, repeating Adam (= man) and Cain (later changed to Seth) as Enosh (= man) and Kenan so that the righteous Noah would become the 10th (with 10 being symbolic of the divine law), Lamech became the 9th, and the logical new value of his FA was 88 years.

  1. The final value of Lamech's FA in the MT was not due to a scribal error, but the result of an elaborate calendrical and symbolical scheme.

To explain this point, I will state dates as year.month.day, where year is AM if only the year number is stated or the nthyear in the life of a person if the year is stated as name.n. Thus, the Flood began on 1656.2.17 = Noah.600.2.17.

Then, the reason why the P author subtracted 6 years from the adjusted FA of Lamech was that he required that:

  • Noah.600.7.17, the day when the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat (Gen 8:4), should be a Friday, and that

  • Noah.600.10.1, the day when the tops of the mountains became visible (Gen 8:5), should be a Tuesday.

The motive for the first requirement is straightforward: Saturday must be a day of rest.

The motive for the second requirement is that, in the P author's view of the Flood as a new creation, there was an obvious analogy between the appearance of the tops of the mountains after "the water decreased steadily until the tenth month" (Gen 8:5) and the appearance of dry land after "the waters below the heavens" were "gathered into one place" (Gen 1:9) on the 3rd day of Creation, i.e. a Tuesday.

As I explain in [2], these requirements, which can be shown to be mutually consistent, lead in turn to the requirement that the last day of the previous year, Noah.599, must be Thursday, meaning that the modulo 7 of the number of days since Creation up to, and including, the last day of Noah.599, denoted as A.days(1..Noah.599), must be 5.

At that point in the redaction process, the P author had already increased Jared's, Methuselah's and Lamech's FA's from their values in the first draft of the chronology to avoid those patriarchs outliving the Flood, which in that first draft was in 1342. Specifically, he had increased Jared's FA from 62 to 162, Methuselah's from 67 to 187, and Lamech's from 88 to 188, so that Methuselah died on 1657.1.6, Lamech died on 1652.1.6, and the Flood began on 1662.2.17. The result was quite neat: a 5-year margin for Methuselah, a 10-year margin for Lamech, and a leap year of Flood as 1662 is multiple of 6. The only problem was that A.days(1..1661) mod 7 was 4, not 5. Since the P author wanted the year of the Flood to be leap, i.e. multiple of 6, he went back 6 years, computed A.days(1..1655) mod 7, and found that it was 5 as desired. Therefore he made 1656 the year of the Flood by subtracting 6 years from Lamech's FA, which became 182.


[1] Ronald Hendel, "A Hasmonean Edition of MT Genesis? The Implications of the Editions of the Chronology in Genesis 5", Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel 1 (2012), pp. 448-64.


[2] Argentus, Johannes (2021), “The Priestly Flood chronology: a case of calendar replacement with Gregorian-like date adjustment”.



I’ve upvoted Dr. Saul Pressman answer for his solid and clear explanation.

Though we cannot be dogmatic about this topic, it seems to me that the available data make tip the scales in favour of LXX testimony (I enclose at the end of my answer some useful links).

As regards James Shewey remark (“I’d be particularly interested in a reference for the claim that ‘Sumerian hostory is an archaeological fantasy’”) I hope to well interpret those Dr. Saul Pressman’s words as they refers to a part of the Sumerian King List.

If this is the case, really some periods of a number of individual rulers described in that List span from hundred years of reign, to thousands, even dozens thousands year long. The list mentions even a king named En-Men-Lu-Anna who reigned for 43,200 years!

No wonder that these uncommon data trigger – unsurprisingly – a reaction of rejection by the scholars, as these data have no historical value, at all. Nevertheless, since this same source (Sumerian King List) includes undoubtedly other data that are considered real historical records, the scholars are on the horns of a dilemma: why the ancient indexer listed ‘common’ reign-durations along with some other inapprehensible durations?

So, remarkably, some scholars are unavailable to discard completely the weird chronological data derived from the Sumerian King List. In fact, they try to found a way to interpret these data, sometimes considering those related-to-individual-people data as referring to individual king stock, a lineage of kings. But, come to think of it… also this attempt does not consent us to ‘square the circle’…

This is not the time and the place to reveal the possible solution to this chronological dilemma related to the texts Dr. Saul Pressman probabably refers with his words “archaeological fantasy”. I add only the fact that applying some correct chrono-coefficients to those weird data we may scale down them to a ‘historical’ values.

Letting us get back to the point, the sense of dependability of the Septuagint has grown in the last decades, thanks to the studies of an amount of scholars (Emanuel Tov, Henry B. Smith Jr, Jeremy Sexton, John Tors, only to mention a few of them) that have understand that there’s no reason to consider – dogmatically – the Masoretic Texts ‘as Gospel’, a kind of inerrant sacred texts without any linguistic/chronological blemish. Instead, every individual Bible text must be considered as a worthy witness, on the understanding that context, logic, and textual cristicism remain the essential instruments we have today to permit us to understand (in the vast majority of instances) what the original writers did want his readers did (and do) must grasp. Through this manner, we are also able to discard (among a number of different lections) the lection/lections that show themselves lacking compared to this winning ‘triad’.

Some useful links (at least, to me) about the reliability of LXX’s chronological data are following... Disclaimer: some of the following links could reach the same documents:









If some people would ask...

Would it be a kind of 'injustice' towards a particular Bible primary source if someone prove (through the use of textual criticism, logic, and context) that there's a mistake in that text?

No, this is the normal and necessary procedure to fix the more probable wording of the original text (we don't possess until now, regrettably). A couple of examples: if in a given case, the abovementioned practice demonstrates that the MT wording is the better, in this case this source has demonstrate its 'superiority'. In the same way, if in a given case, the abovementioned practice demonstrates that the LXX wording is the better in this case this source has demonstrate its 'superiority'.

Are the upholders of LXX's patriarchal chronology (vs MT's patriarchal chronology) 'respectable scholars'?

First of all, I object to the 'respectability' method someone use to back his topics. I prefer to let the arguments themselves speaking in my stead... In this specific case I limit myself to mention the names of some of these backers [either individuals or texts] (LXX's patriarchal chronology), in a chronological order (I limit myself only to some ancient backers):

Luke the evangelist, only to a certain degree.

Demetrius the Chronographer (III c. BC)

Pseudo–Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (LAB, I c. AD)

Josephus (I c. AD)

Sextus Julius Africanus (II-III c. AD)

Eusebius of Caesarea (III-IV c. AD)

Jerome of Stridon (IV-V c. AD)

Augustine of Hippo (c. IV-V AD)

Jacob of Edessa (VII-VIII AD)

George Syncellus (about VIII-IX c. AD)

Bar Hebraeus [Abulpharag] (XIII c. AD)

Are the above-mentioned people adequately 'respectable' scholars (although not infallible)? I leave the judgment to the readers...

Is the thesis of the 'superiority' of the LXX's patriarchal chronology (vs MT's patriarchal chronology) a modern one?

Absolutely not. In fact, it have been the subject of debate for more than one millennium and half! Eusebius of Caesarea (III-IV cent. AD) is the first known author to explicitly cite and discuss the querelle.

I hope this answer will be useful for your research.

  • 1
    Saro, while I agree with you that "there’s no reason to consider – dogmatically – the Masoretic Texts ‘as Gospel’", this is very different from saying that the MT has deliberately been corrupted by the Rabbis, a myth that Henry B. Smith Jr prorogates. Tov and other respectable scholars do not support such a notion, they treat all recensions with respect (i.e. MT, LXX, SP) and they theorize how it might have developed (see my answer), but to say that the LXX is superior in this case is an injustice to the MT and all of the other textual traditions, especially as theres no evidence for it.
    – bach
    Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 15:28

The reason for this is that the Jews who lived in Alexandria during the second temple period, wanted to impress their gentile neighbors, so they adapted the dates found in the Torah, to match the egyptian chronology. They were ashamed for the fact that the Torah did not match the egyptian chronolgy so when they translated their Torah into greek they introduced these changes.

There were probably multiple individuals or groups who did such modifications, so you had multiple versions of the text. Some of these versions found their way back into Hebrew copies of the Torah in the land of Israel, into the SP and other books, and the greek version, entered into the Septuagint canon. There are many other modifications they made in order for some things to be more rational, such as Exodus 22:4, you can find in the LXX and the SP a more detailed version then the MT, in order to make it appear more rational. Probably the dates in the original LXX were similar to the MT. Anyway, the rule of thumb among bible researchers, is when you see a less rational/more archaic version, it is probably the authentic version, since it was not modified to appear more rational, so the MT is probably the correct one.

Josephus probably based his writtings on a modified version of the Torah, probably because his authored his books while he was in Rome, and the only available copies of the Torah he had, were in greek.

For more, see my answer in Should Cainan be included or excluded from the geneology of Jesus?


Another theory I've read (has anyone else come across this?) is that as time went on under the Old Covenant, an understanding arose among the Israelites that the Messiah would appear during "the 6th Age" of human history--i.e. the sixth millennium after Adam. The Septuagint chronology reflects that perfectly, placing the creation of Adam somewhere before 5000 B.C. In Catholic/Western tradition, the date 5199 B.C. often appears, while in Byzantine/Eastern circles, 5509 B.C. is cited. Depends on which LXX manuscript is considered authoritative.

The Masoretes on the other hand, as followers of the Pharisees, had to figure out a way to realign the ancient timetable so that the creation of Adam would no longer point to Christ in this way, so..shave off a few centuries here and there..and voilà! The calender used by contemporary Israel today (e.g. the Jerusalem Post, etc) dates from 3761 B.C.--even shorter than Ussher's chronology!

  • Hi, and welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics. We do appreciate you posting, but do you have a source for your sixth age statement?
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 17:21
  • Thanks! Let'see... Links: 1. ahavta.org/millennial.htm 2. moshiach.com/… BOOKS: 1. The Beginning of Wisdom: Unabridged Translation of the Gate of Love (Elijah ben Moses de Vidas) 2. Prognosticum Futuri Saeculi [Julian of Toledo] These also demonstrate how the "6th millennium" thing, based on the Seder Olam creation date (3761 B.C.), led to all the craziness of some folks thinking the world would end in the A.D. 1840s!
    – Tony
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 22:47

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