Re: [asa] Ages of the Patriarchs

From: <>
Date: Tue Feb 20 2007 - 23:10:34 EST

Wow, this pattern is compelling and so I believe it! But it's **certainly** not sufficient to explain everything.
I'll list several more problems at the bottom, but most importantly it fails to explain the differences in the LXX and the Samaritan.
**If the editors of those versions had no reason to change the numbers then they wouldn't have done so.**
It only makes sense if all versions were struggling to make sense of the numbers and each version represents a school of thought on how to do it. Consider Lamech's 777. It is absolutely inexplicable why the LXX would change that beautiful number to be the meaningless 753 and why the Samaritan would change it to be the meaningless 653. That makes no sense! It makes a lot more sense to believe that the Masoretes would change the original 753 to be 777 in order to complete the pattern! Surely this is not hard to see! And plus, consider that the LXX and Samaritan basically agree with each other on this number (the last two digits being the same, and the first digit differing by 100 like most of the numbers in the LXX and Samaritan) whereas the MT is voted out. This 777 is not attested in either of the other two versions. Clearly it is a number out of the blue, chosen for its own value at the center of the symmetric pattern.
There is a very simple explanation for this pattern: the Masoretic version was edited at a late date specifically to produce this pattern. All three schools of thought represent attempts to make sense of the numbers, and the Masoretes must have chosen a symbolic approach!
Please read this carefully because this is a constent explanation that really does explain everything:
My core belief is that Moses wrote numbers like "6 shar 5 gug and 3 as," which is a transliteration from cuneiform wedges in the hexagesimal system into Hebrew alphabet, a spelled-out hexagesimal system. But later periods in Jewish history forgot what these "shar" and "as" units meant and didn't realize that they were not base-10. Hence they didn't add up and so they just left the text as it was. But when Jewish scholars re-discovered Mesopotamian hexagesimal numbers during the Captivity they realized that they **almost** added up. They thought their number problem was solved! Unfortunatelty there was still one little problem, which Robert Best explains very well: they didn't realize that the Shurrupak number system was slightly different than the main Mesopotamian system. Hence, there seemed to remain an inexplicable failure for the ages to perfectly add up (pre-birth plus post-birth should add up to total age in each case), and the error was usually in the 100's digit. So each text tweaked the numbers to "fix" it. Some put the 100 in the pre-birth. Some put it in the post-birth. All versions had to make other small edits here and there to complete "fixing" the problems resulting from the difference in Shurrupak's numbers. Hence none of the three sets of numbers is identical to what Moses originally recorded. If you compare all three versions and take 2 out of 3 for the digits in each case, except delete the extra 100 wherever you find it, and then convert it to hexagesimal, you will probably be closer to what Moses had written.
So apparently, in this editing process the Masoretes chose to spiritualize the text and make the numbers symbolic to resolve the conflict. They tweaked the numbers so that a beautiful pattern emerged.
The editors of the LXX on the other hand seem to have had a different guiding principle. Apparently they took the ages to be literal and then adjusted them by consistently adding 100 to the pre-birth ages in order to stretch out the total length of the geneology. The MT and Sam were not so consistent; they generally added 100 to the post-birth ages, but with exceptions. I suspect that the LXX was influenced by the history recorded in Egypt, since the ages of the unbroken chain of Egyptian priests went back earlier than Adam. Herodotus tells how both he and Hesiod had been embarrassed by this, when they discovered that their Greek mythology did not go back far enough to encompass recorded Egyptian history, and the Egyptian priests mocked them for it. This was a well-known fact in classical times since Herodotus was read everywhere. The Greek-speaking LXX scholars, thoroughly familiar with Herodotus and working in Alexandria **Egypt** of all places, certainly were aware that their own Genesis geneology suffered the same problem as the Greek's in comparison to Egyptian history; it wasn't long enough! And so in trying to make the ages add up they chose to take the long path, the path that stretches it all out by putting the missing 100 in the pre-birth dates wherever possible. There's a speculation, anyhow.
The Masoretic and Samaritan versions generally put the missing 100 in the post-birth column, which does not stretch out the geneology. I take that as attestation that they were generally trying to conserve the total duration as they had received it. Hence, I tend to believe the 100 was not originally there. That is what is perdicted by the difference between Shurrupak's and the main Mesopotamian number system, anyhow. the Mesopotamian wedge equal to 60 was worth only 48 in Shurrupak, so the numbers seemed a little larger than they really were. This introduced a carrying error in the 100's digit. I have not worked this out in detail, but Robert Best shows in detail how un-doing this error reduces the numbers to ordinary human ages both pre-birth and at death.
All three versions end up having additional problems near the flood because Lamech and Methuselah don't die in time. So they each tweaked the numbers additionally at that point. As Dick points out, we actually have surviving manuscripts of the LXX that have it both ways. So if you compare all three versions and take 2 out of 3 attestation to be the original numeral in each digit, then you can see how each text made one special edit to deal with Lamech and Methuselah, each according to its own guiding priniciple. The non-attested number always **happens** to be exactly what it needs to be to fix Lamech and Methuselah.
So I think that the amazing symmetric pattern in the MT must have been the underlying principle that the Masoretes adopted while editing those pesky hexagesimal numbers that didn't add up. Unable to make sense of the Shurrupak numbers, they might have accepted them as basically symbolic in God's wisdom, and they might have also noticed that they **almost** made a beautiful pattern. Hence with a little tweaking here and there they got the pattern beautiful pattern to work. Perhaps this made them feel justified in changing the numbers. They thought they had discovered what God had intended. Perhaps they even deleted the one Patriarch Cainan after the Flood in order to make the pattern fit....?
Here are some other things this Masoretic pattern doesn't explain unless you accept it as merely late editing. It doesn't explain the particular choice of these 4 trailing digits (0, 2, 5 and 7), which is highly improbable by chance and not sufficiently symbolic to explain why they were used. On the other hand, if these were real numbers mistranslated from a Mesopotamian sexagesimal number system, then that can explain this digit. It has been suggested by Robert Best that in Shurrupak they counted seasons, not years. That might make sense in an agrarian economy where everything was highly dependent on seasons. So the final digits in their ages may ahve consisted of between zero and three cuneiform wedges to represent the number of completed seasons before carrying the fourth season as another wedge in the "years" column. In translating this number system, a scholar may have first converted the seasons to quarters (as Robert Best suggests), so we get 0, 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 (= 0, 2, 5, and 7 truncated to the nearest tenth). [There was some rationale why tenths were used in Shuruppak,but I can't rememer it.] Is it just coincidence that these four numbers are evenly spaced in fourths between 0 and 10? In the hexagesimal Shurrupak explanation, this is not a coincidence!
Also, this symmetric pattern in the Masoretic fails to explain the overall apparent randomness of most of the numbers taken individually. Apart from their trailing digits being only the four possible values, the numbers are otherwise random! There is nothing symbolic about any one number considered by itself (other than 777, of course). That was what Carol Hill's article was trying to establish, but IMO it is not possible to establish these numbers as individually symbolic. But if you are going for symbolism, then why not make every number symbolic? Make some bigger and some smaller so the symmetric totals come out the same, but make each number more symbolic like Lamech's 777. That would have been possible. So in other words, the pattern fails to explain why it is not a better pattern!
But if this set of ages was originally recorded in units that were part of of a hexadecimal system (shars and so forth), then the Masoretes would not have done such drastic editing as to change everything. They only made the small tweaks as necessary to get things to add up, to get consistency with Methuselah and Lamech dying before the Flood, and to "justify" the small changes in the text by spiritualizing it and making a symmetric pattern emerge.
I believe this hypothesis, which is merely a synthesis of what several other people have argued for different parts of the data, successfully explains everything.
God bless,
Phil M.
-----Original Message-----
Sent: Tue, 20 Feb 2007 7:02 PM
Subject: RE: [asa] Ages of the Patriarchs

Hi Iain, you wrote:
>>Johnson writes:
2. If only one age was different by even 1 year, the entire
system would collapse. This gives good grounds for
assuming the reliability of the MT figures. The LXX and
the SP have both "adjusted" the MT figures, but in
doing so have created chaos; in the LXX Methuselah
actually dies 14 years after the flood!
Are you willing to believe the LXX account which has Methuselah dying
14 years after the flood?<<
Reread the first two sentences. In order to make his math correct all the reported ages in the MT have to be correct. How does his mathematical model impact the reliability of the text? This is tail wagging the dog. We don’t have just 1 year being different we have a whole missing patriarch in the MT!
The LXX puts the age of Methuselah at death at 969, same as the Masoretic text. There is a discrepancy between LXX manuscripts as to whether Methuselah lived 167 years or 187 years before the birth of Lamech. If the correct figure is 187 then Methuselah didn't have to tread water. So I wouldn't hinge an entire argument on simple scribal errors which we can all agree impact both texts.
The Septuagint has its origin in Alexandria, Egypt and was translated between
300-200 BC. The oldest fragments from the MT date from the 9th century AD. So how does that square with your argument that "The LXX and the SP have both 'adjusted' the MT figures"? Any textual corruption tarnishes the Johnny-come-lately MT which omitted Arphaxad's son, Canaan, just to prove the point.
There are enough questions about actual ages and textual ages that to build a mathematical model to prove all the ages are symbolic is totally flawed.
The argument that there are mathematical patterns in the patriarch's ages, therefore they are symbolic is akin to the argument that there is complexity in nature, therefore it was created.
Dick Fischer, Genesis Proclaimed Association
Finding Harmony in Bible, Science, and History
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Received on Tue Feb 20 23:11:06 2007

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