Ponder Scripture Newsletter
  
By Larry and June Acheson
 
 
W
ith the seemingly endless array of Bible-based articles, newsletters and other publications currently available on the Internet, there is a veritable "information overload" of sorts when it comes to searching for various Bible-related topics.  Since there is already an abundance of Bible-related topics to choose from, you can well imagine that one could devote his or her full time to reading these studies.  June and I have added our share of studies to cyberspace, some of which are very lengthy.  Indeed, some topics require lengthy explanations to provide in-depth answers.  On this page, however, we want to keep things as "short and sweet" as possible.  While we primarily gear our writings to those who share our understanding that the Torah is relevant for believers today, anyone is welcome to read and offer feedback; however, due to our schedules, we cannot guarantee a quick turn-around response time.  We invite you to direct all correspondence to seekutruth at aol dot com.

Newsletter #26  

Why the Greek Septuagint Trumps the Hebrew Masoretic Text

By Larry, June & Colista Acheson

12/02/2018

 

W
hen fellow believer and friend Kathy Stewart drove her mother to Kentucky to see “The Ark Encounter” in October 2018, it was out of a desire to combine her annual Sukkot vacation with some pertinent sightseeing.  Little did she know the dynamic impact that her visit would have, not only on her life, but our family’s as well.  Maybe, after reading this commentary, it will also change your perspective of Scripture as inspired by our Heavenly Father. 

    The change I’m referring to had more to do with what happened after Kathy’s return home than her actual experience touring the Answers in Genesis awe-inspiring replica of Noah’s Ark.  In the course of showing us her various photos, one thing led to another and eventually the discussion of Creation versus Evolution arose.  Kathy is one of those kindred spirits who loves listening to creationists' answers to evolutionists' claims.  We have watched many hours of creationist Kent Hovind's video seminars and we occasionally discuss things such as my old college days when I was either an agnostic or atheist, depending on how you look at it.  When I finally came to understand that there are just too many “coincidences” for our world and everything on it to be the natural by-product of a cosmic “big bang,” I jettisoned my evolutionist leanings and embraced creationism.  Since then, I have found that I, like Kathy, enjoy listening to or reading creationists’ responses to evolutionists' claims.  I won’t get into the various arguments that are out there, but for the purpose of this article, we will examine a claim that I had never really considered – until Kathy’s return from Kentucky.

     The brainchild behind The Ark Encounter is creationist Ken Ham, who debated evolutionist Bill Nye in February 2014 on the question "Is Creation a Viable Model of Origins?"  Two years and a few months later, Bill Nye was Ham’s special invited guest to tour the newly-opened Ark Encounter exhibit in Grant County, Kentucky.  I watched the 2014 debate, but as debates go, you just don’t catch everything and regrettably I missed an argument from Bill Nye that needs to be addressed.  Watching the debate left me with the feeling that Ken Ham could have done a much better job refuting Nye’s claims, but at the same time, not being a master debater myself, I was sure I would have done far worse.  Nevertheless, from an unbiased perspective, Ken Ham won the debate simply because he has the answer to the all-important question, “How did the atoms that created the Big Bang get there?”  Bill Nye could not answer the question, instead deflecting to the non-answer, “This is a great mystery!”  Creationists, on the other hand, answer, “There actually is a book out there that tells us where matter came from. And the very first sentence in that book says, ‘In the beginning the Almighty created the heavens and the earth.’”   From my perspective, based on the wisdom found in the book known as the Bible, combined with archaeological evidence supporting its claims and a culture of people whose history is founded on its precepts, Ken Ham won the debate with his answer above.  Nevertheless, based on my life experiences since the debate, I can’t say that it had much impact, if any, on persuading atheists to rethink their position; but then again, if that debate changed just one person’s life in a positive way, it was beneficial.  As I mentioned, there were comments made during the debate that I just didn’t catch for some reason.  It’s a comment that Bill Nye made while making a series of points, but Ken Ham didn’t address it and maybe that’s why it didn’t resonate.  I’ll get to that comment in a moment.

     Fast forward to the opening of The Ark Encounter in 2016 when Bill Nye toured the Ark replica with host Ken Ham.  The entire tour was recorded on film and is currently available for viewing on the Answers in Genesis web site.  Kathy Stewart is a frequent visitor to our home on Shabbat and upon her return from her own tour of The Ark Encounter, she shared details, interspersed with photos, of her thrilling experience.  In the course of our discussion, we performed an internet search for additional information about The Ark Encounter and that’s where we found the Answers in Genesis video of Bill Nye’s tour.  We watched the entire video, which consists of back-and-forth sparring between two differently-wired individuals.  Frankly, I thought watching it was a waste of time, but a comment from Bill Nye captured Kathy’s interest – and that’s what proved to be the catalyst of a game-changing experience, not only for Kathy, but for June and me as well.

     At around the 27-minute mark of the video, Bill Nye mentioned that the pyramids are older than 6,000 years, which is the age attributed to planet Earth by Ken Ham and many creationists.  You can watch a clip of his remark here.  I’m pretty sure that Nye meant to say the pyramids are older than 4,000 years old because that’s the traditional date attributed to the Biblical flood of Noah’s day.  In fact, that’s precisely the claim he made during his debate with Ken Ham two years previously and that’s the comment I missed when I first watched the debate. He made that comment in passing at about the 1 hour, 46 minute mark of the debate and you can watch a clip of that passing comment here.  While watching the video of Bill Nye’s tour of The Ark Encounter, Kathy was intrigued by Bill Nye’s commentary about the pyramids being older than 6,000 years.  I never really gave it much thought, possibly because I’m not really all that interested in dating issues.  However, later that week Kathy did some online knocking and the door was opened.

     Kathy sent us the link to a YouTube video that was so intriguing that after watching it a couple of times, we contacted the producer, Nathan Hoffman, and obtained a DVD of it.  The video is titled “Were the Pyramids Built Before the Flood?”  That video is chock-full of verifiable facts and when you put them all together, you find that the dating found in the surviving Hebrew Bibles is so flawed that even if you use conservative dating methods (correcting flawed Egyptian dating records), the best anyone can come up with is that the pyramids were built right at the time of the Flood, which we know would not have been possible for even a few generations of Noah’s family to have built, especially when you consider the fact that each stone weighs an average of over two tons!

     So what’s the creationists’ answer?  Well, Ken Ham, like me, seemed to gloss over Bill Nye’s comment.  I checked out the Answers in Genesis web site to see if I could find an online rebuttal there and I came across an article that, like Hoffman’s video, is titled “Were the Pyramids Built Before the Flood?” You can access that article here.  It’s a fairly informative article that I’m sure satisfies most creationists, but from a balanced perspective I can see why it wouldn’t satisfy evolutionists.  It addresses the claim that the pyramids were built around 2,550 bce, whereas the Flood occurred around 2350 bce, i.e., 200 years after the pyramids were built, but all it does is call into question the dating of the Egyptian dynasties.  It doesn’t delve into the how’s and why’s of inaccurate dating of these dynasties, but it does provide ample evidence that the pyramids were in fact built by Israelite slaves – which would naturally have been after the Flood.  So what’s the problem?

     The problem has to do with the dating found in the Hebrew Bible, which is what such highly respected chronologists such as Archbishop James Ussher used to date how long ago the Flood occurred (2348 bce or roughly 4,366 years ago).  We have found what we believe is an even more reliable timeline than Ussher’s, which places the flood around the year 2275 bce.  This latter timeline actually makes things even worse from a creationist perspective.  If the Egyptian pyramids were built around 2,550 bce, then we have a dating problem that is not so easily dismissed, especially by those who claim there never was a worldwide flood.  A cataclysmic worldwide flood would most certainly have wiped out all traces of the pyramids.  Yet, the best Egyptian dating corrections only bring the pyramids 200 years closer to the present, which is right at (or shortly before) the time frame given for the flood.  In his video on this topic, Nathan Hoffman does a superb job of outlining how utterly impossible it would have been for the eight surviving individuals from the Flood to have built the pyramids; in fact, he demonstrates that if the Tower of Babel was built only 100 years after the flood (as required by the timeline of the Hebrew Bible), it could not have been built by more than 186 people based on a realistic 3.2% growth rate.  It is estimated that the pyramids were built by around 30,000 laborers, so clearly a much larger structure such as the Tower of Babel would have needed even more laborers.

     Here's a timeline based on the chronological sequence presented within the Hebrew Masoretic text:

     I should point out that the above timeline is not based on the traditional timeline as supplied by most dictionaries and commentaries.  That's because, after comparing the traditional timeline with one proposed by Jonathan Hall in his booklet ‘The Ultimate Comprehensive Bible Timeline,” I am persuaded that Hall’s chronology best fits the timeline presented by Scripture, especially when it comes to resolving the difficulties posed by the reigns of the kings of Judah.  His only downfall is his reliance on the Hebrew Masoretic Text for dating time from Creation to the birth of Abraham.  Hall’s timeline is painstakingly expounded upon by a member of a Canadian church in a document titled "Bible Timeline Analysis," which you may access here.  According to Hall's timeline, the Flood occurred during the year 2275 bce.  Most timelines present the Flood as having occurred around the year 2350 bce.  Regardless of which timeline is the most accurate, the fact remains that even with the most conservative timeline, the pyramids would have had to have been built during the same year as the Flood!  While I'm sure Noah and his family were bigger and stronger than people today, I doubt that they could have built the pyramids, especially when you consider the fact that the stones used for their construction weighed an average of 2.5 tons each!  They simply needed more time -- and more descendents -- to not only build the pyramids, but also the immense Tower of Babel, which preceded the pyramids.

     So how do we resolve the problem?

        Enter the Septuagint (also referred to as the LXX), the Greek translation of the Bible that was carried out by 72 Hebrew and Greek scholars in the 3rd century bce.  Many “King James only” folks, as well as many in what is known as the “Hebrew Roots Movement,” will stop reading this commentary right here because many of those individuals reject the LXX (or any ancient writings whose text is not Hebrew).  At least that has been our experience.  However, during our small assembly’s Sukkot observance back in 2004, we carried out a complete reading of the book of Deuteronomy.  We took turns reading and as we did so, I followed along with an English copy translated from the Septuagint.  It was both uncanny and amazing to see the number of times that the Septuagint text corrects the Hebrew text.  The corrections were usually minor ones, but it prompted me to do further reading comparisons and I found an especially glaring error in the Hebrew text of Leviticus 13.  I go into some detail about this error in our Pentecost study.

     I have long wondered why the Septuagint text was so heavily quoted by New Testament writers; not only that, but Jewish believers such as Philo and Josephus most certainly counted to Pentecost based on the instructions found in the Septuagint text, which has the count to Pentecost starting on the morrow after the first “high day” Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The Hebrew text places the count on the morrow after the weekly Sabbath.  My most intense research shows that the early believers followed the pattern set forth in the Septuagint.  However, every time I would point out this information, I was immediately reminded that if I were to go with the Septuagint’s reading, then I should also go by the Septuagint’s “skewed” dating, which has Methuselah outliving the Flood by 14 years.  I had to admit that the dating of Methuselah’s life span exposed a critical dating problem with the Septuagint text and I could only imagine that if the Hebrew scholars who translated the LXX messed up Methuselah’s timeline, then they must have messed up the other patriarchs' as well.  However, as I watched Nathan Hoffman’s presentation, I knew he was on to something big.  Hoffman not only brings out the fact that at some point in time someone subtracted 100 years from the begetting ages of six patriarchs (Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu and Serug), but he also demonstrates that the corrected timeline follows the normal life expectancy pattern of sons outliving their fathers.  But what about the fact that the Septuagint’s timeline requires believing that Methuselah outlived the flood?  Hoffman doesn’t cover this enigma.

     It’s amazing how one thing can lead to another.  In this situation, I knew Hoffman had exposed a huge dating problem with the Hebrew Bible and suddenly the Septuagint’s dating wasn’t as skewed as I had been led to believe – but what about Methuselah?  I knew he couldn’t have outlived the Flood.  What was I missing?  I continued digging (i.e., Googling) and at length I found the answer:  With the passing of time, someone had corrupted a later text of the Septuagint!  I highly recommend reading “Methuselah’s Begetting Age in Genesis 5:25 and the Primeval Chronology of the Septuagint:  A Closer Look at the Textual and Historical Evidence” by Henry B. Smith, Jr.  The author proves that the original text of the Septuagint had Methuselah’s age as 187 when he beget Lamech instead of the 167 age listed in current copies of this Greek version.  In other words, the original copies of the LXX show that Methuselah died before the Flood.  But don’t take our word for it!  Read the article.  It’s well worth reading!

     There’s more.

     Not only does the dating of the original copy of the Septuagint have Methuselah dying before the Flood, not only does the timeline show that offspring as a rule outlived their fathers, but the Septuagint’s timeline also shows that the Flood occurred long before the pyramids were built.  In fact, according to Hoffman’s calculations, with the expected growth rate of 3.2%, not only would an expected growth rate of 3.2% have allowed for over two million laborers to have built the Tower of Babel, but there would also have been more than enough workers to have built the pyramids.

    Here's a timeline based on the chronological sequence presented within the Septuagint text:

     As displayed above, there were approximately 575 years from the Flood to the building of the pyramids -- plenty of time for the earth to replenish its human population in time for such massive and extensive building projects.

Bye-bye, Book of Jasher.

     For me personally, there was a surprising by-product of learning that the timeline of the original Septuagint text corrects the timeline of the Masoretic Text.  For several years, the Book of Jasher supplemented my reading of the accounts in Genesis and Exodus.  I say “my reading” because my wife and daughter were not of the same accord and our differences produced not a little strife.  Strife was not common to our Bible studies and heretofore we essentially walked together in unity, so it was not pleasant being at odds over such a seemingly minor thing.  The primary argument that I was unable to answer is the fact that in chapter 10, where the Book of Jasher lists the descendants of Noah and where they settled, it includes the family of Gomer having settled in “Franza, by the river Franza, by the river Senah.”  Scholars point out that France was never known as “Franza” until sometime after the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 ce.  I assume the river Senah is the Seine River.  I mentally resolved the conflict by reasoning that the original name of that region was likely lost in a previous copy and that the medieval scribe who copied the extant Hebrew text supplied the modern name within the otherwise accurate text.  However, not only does the Book of Jasher’s timeline match that of the Hebrew text, which has Shem being contemporary with Abraham, but it flat-out (mis)identifies Shem as being Melchizadek (Adonizedek), the king of Jerusalem who came out to meet Abraham with bread and wine after he had defeated the four kings (Genesis 14).  With the Septuagint’s timeline, it would have been impossible for Shem to have been Melchizadek.  In fact, if you follow the timeline found in the Septuagint text, Shem died 500 years before Abraham was born.  Since the Bible does not record any interaction between Abraham and Shem (as should be expected), we find the Septuagint’s timeline to be more realistic.  I still find the Book of Jasher a fascinating read, but its embellishments can now only be regarded as a medieval commentary at best.

     By the way, it is not all that surprising that there are folks out there who would rather hang on to their belief that the Hebrew text can’t be wrong than admit that the LXX dating answers the evolutionists’ claims about the pyramids and the Flood, as well as other dating anomalies.  We watched an online video from creationist Kent Hovind in which he makes a rather lame effort at discrediting Hoffman’s video, offering nothing of substance to refute any of the information presented.  It’s essentially a non-answer.  We’re certain that others who cannot or will not disembrace the Hebrew text will follow Hovind’s lead.  As a truth-seeker, I will say that I may not agree with Nathan Hoffman on several doctrinal points, including whether or not we honor our Heavenly Father by referring to Him as God; but he certainly presented the truth in the debate over whether or not the LXX comes closer to the original Hebrew than the extant Hebrew copies available to us today.  The Septuagint wins on many levels, including the resolution to the conflict between the Hebrew text’s timeline of the Flood and the time frame for when the pyramids were built.  What do evolutionists have to say about that?

     For those of you who like to compare charts, June put together a couple of Bible timelines, first for the Hebrew Bible, then for the Septuagint translation.  Here's the Hebrew Bible timeline:

     Here's the timeline based on the Septuagint translation:

      We realize these charts are too small to read here, so if you click on them you can access the spreadsheet for a closer look.

      We are so glad that Kathy made the trip to Kentucky!  We now have a heavy-duty response to anyone arguing that Creationists must believe that the pyramids were built before the Flood.  The problem is not with the Bible -- the problem is with the version whose timeline you use.

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