Why Septuagint years are different in Genesis?

The years found in most English bibles are based on Masoretic. However, the years in Septuagint, a Greek translation made 300 years before Christ have different years. We saw earlier that Septuagint’s Antediluvian Years are Correct. Here we will investigate why Septuagint years are different in Genesis when compared with Masoretic.

The Phoenicians, according to the Greek historian Strabon, were the best arithmeticians in the world. No doubt that their commercial activity explains this fact. Like nearby civilizations, they didn’t know the zero. Like the Babylonians, they used only a small number of digits but not the same ones: they used the 1, 5, 10, 20 and 100. Their drawing look basically logical: a vertical bar for 1, an horizontal bar for 10, two linked horizontal bars for 20, etc. But many alternative drawings were used. Writing numbers was a little more complex: it often required many digits, which were then grouped by bunches 3, and read from right to left1.

  • 8 is written as 111 111 11
  • 142 is written as 100 20 20 1 1
  • 300 is written as 3 100 (the 3 in front)

The below table shows many examples (with various scripts) which clarify the signs used and the way they were combined.

For our investigation, we will be using the standard Phonetician Unicode where U+10916 𐤖, U+10917 𐤗, U+10918 𐤘 and U+10919 𐤙 encode the numerals 1, 10, 20 and 100 respectively and U+1091F3.

  • 𐤖 = 1
  • 𐤗 = 10
  •  𐤘 = 20
  • 𐤙 = 100

Hence,

  • 8 is written as 𐤖𐤖𐤖 𐤖𐤖𐤖 𐤖𐤖
  • 142 is written as 𐤙𐤘𐤘𐤖𐤖
  • 300 is written as 𐤖𐤖𐤖𐤙

Below is the tabulation of years from Masoretic text and the values from Septuagint. The bolded red values are corrected based on earlier research/study (Refer: timeline).

Masoretic & Vulgate Septuagint (Corrected)
Patriarch Birth Son remain Death Birth Son remain Death
Adam 0 130 800 930 0 230 700 930
Seth 130 105 807 912 230 205 707 912
Enosh 235 90 815 905 435 190 715 905
Kenan 325 70 840 910 625 170 740 910
Mahalalel 395 65 830 895 795 165 730 895
Jared 460 162 800 962 960 162 800 962
Enoch 622 65 300 365 1122 165 200 365
Methuselah 687 187 782 969 1287 187 782 969
Lamech 874 182 595 777 1474 182 565 747
Noah 1056 500 950 1656 500 950
Shem 1556 100 500 600 2156 100 500 600

The Bible was initially written in Paleo-Hebrew using Phoenician script. We know this because, it contains the name of the LORD still in Phoenician.

A text from Qumran, containing the Tetragrammaton in Phoenician script alongside Hebrew text2

Replacing the numbers as we know today into Phoenician will help us understand what the ancient scribes saw. This helps to put us in their shoes so that we can investigate to find what really went wrong.

In the above image, the direction is changed from right to left to mimic the Phoenician writing direction.

  • the text within red square from Septuagint is missing from Masoretic
  • the text within red square from Masoretic is missing from Septuagint
  • the text within blue square from Septuagint is missing from Septuagint but found in Masoretic.

What really went wrong? It seems the margin part or at a folding where the beginning of the son’s years were destroyed from the document held by scribes copying the Masoretic text. This led the scribes to copy the truncated values but soon realised that the remain value must be corrected and just added ‘1’ symbol to tally the total which seems to have preserved. This went on from Adam to Enoch. When the scribes came to Methuselah, it seems they find no issues and copied the correct values. However, the scribes copying Septuagint seems to have trouble with a symbol missed out for Methuselah’s son and they corrected the remain by adding ‘1’. The errors in row Lamech seems to be much more than simple explanation. Lamech’s son in Masoretic is correct. The same sequence of symbols added in ‘remain’ for Lamech is also added for his death. This looks like a ‘typo’ while copying. On the Septuagint side, it seems the symbols that were supposed to be for Lamech’s death seems to be included when he had his son. It is either a typo or the part of Lamech’s death from the document scribes were copying Septuagint could have torn or worn out.

Conclusion

The years found in most English bibles are based on Masoretic. However, the years in Septuagint, a Greek translation made 300 years before Christ have different years. After converting the years into Phoenician, we can easily see that the symbols at the margin or at a folding were missing indicating a worn out manuscript was used to copy the Masoretic texts.


1 l’Anticopédie, “Educational information: the Phoenician language, Writing, Alphabet, Numeral system.” Anticopedie.fr, http://www.anticopedie.fr/mondes/mondes-gb/phenicie-langue.html. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.

2 Michael Everson. “Final proposal for encoding the Phoenician script in the UCS” Std.dk, 3 Jun. 2004, http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n2746.pdf. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.

3 Wikipedia Contributors. “Phoenician alphabet.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 22 Sept. 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenician_alphabet#Numerals. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.