Dating the flood

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Tue Oct 3 03:16:27 EDT 2000

John Ronning wrote,

>Walter and Rolf,
>Appeals to literalism don't answer the question as to
>whether there might be gaps in the genealogies.  The
>question of gaps comes down to the biblical idiom involved
>in "beget" and "bear."
>Note e.g. Matt 1:8; Joram "begat" Uzziah (skips Ahaziah,
>Joash, Amaziah); Joram was long dead when Uzziah was born
>“to him,” unless he is considered as becoming the father of
>Uzziah, etc. when Ahaziah (his 1st generation son) their
>ancestor is born.
>Also Gen 46:15 - “These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore
>to Jacob in Paddan-Aram, with his daughter Dinah; all his
>sons and daughters were thirty three.”  This number includes
>many (most) born in the next generation in the land of
>Canaan, thus it calls Jacob’s grandsons who were born in
>Canaan, sons that were born “to him,” "by Leah" (who was
>actually the grandmother) in "Paddan-Aram."
>Similarly Gen 46:22 - “These are the sons of Rachel, who
>were born to Jacob; fourteen persons in all.”  Rachel was
>dead when most of these were born.  It includes the sons of
>Joseph born to him in Egypt.
>Thus neither the mother nor father need be even alive at the
>birth of the next son listed in the genealogy.  Apparently,
>in biblical idiom, one “begets” not only his son, but his
>sons descendants when that son is born.
>The genealogy of Moses in Exodus 6:20 says that Jochebed
>bore Moses and Aaron to Amram, giving us Levi > Kohath >
>Amram > Moses.  Kohath is listed in Gen 46:11 as a first
>generation son of Levi.  Numbers 3 divides the families of
>Kohathites into four, including the Amramites, so Amram is
>also probably first generation son of Kohath (meaning
>Jochebed is a first generation daughter of Levi), who lived
>and died hundreds of years before Moses.
>The possibility of gaps in the genealogies was apparently
>overlooked by the LXX translators, who inserted an extra
>hundred years in the ages at "begetting" in Genesis 11 so
>they could avoid the embarrasment of Shem being still alive
>in the time of Abraham - though others have found it
>convenient to have Shem still around - so if you ask why
>doesn't it say that both Abraham and Isaac returned to
>Beersheba after Mt. Moriah, the answer was, Isaac went to
>study in the rabbinical school of Shem.  Luther didn't like
>the idea of Rebekah inquiring directly of the Lord, so he
>explained that she really went to Shem when she inquired of
>the Lord.
>If one "begets" not only the son but also his descendents
>when that son is born (again, by idiomatic usage, not
>literally), then one could read Gen 11:16-17 (just for an
>example) "Eber lived thirty-four years, and became the
>father of [an ancestor of] Peleg; and Eber lived four
>hundred and thirty years after he became the father of [an
>ancestor of] Peleg," etc.
>Another point of course, is that there is a rather sudden
>and sharp reduction of lifespans between Eber and Peleg -
>I'd say a good place to suppose that a long list of names
>has been left out.
>Bottom line, no, you can't date the flood using the
>genealogies (at least not with any certainty).

Dear Jon,

You are correct whan you say that "an appeal to literalism don't answer the
question as to whether there might be gaps in the genealogies". But your
demonstration that "beget" and "bear can refer to something other than
physical bearing or begetting neither answer the question whather there are
gaps in the genealogy from Noah to Abraham, which has been my point of
concern in connection with the flood.

The first step to see whether the information of the Bible is constradicted
by established facts, is to find out what the Bible do say. In the
genealogy of Genesis 11 we read (RSV):

Gen. 11:10 These are the descendants of Shem. When Shem was a hundred years
old, he became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood;
Gen. 11:11 and Shem lived after the birth of Arpachshad five hundred years,
and had other sons and daughters.
Gen. 11:12 When Arpachshad had lived thirty-five years, he became the
father of Shelah;

In each case from Shem to Abraham we find the age of the father when the
son was born and how long after the birth the father lived. As a linguist I
am very well aware of the ambiguity of language and I wrestle with it
daily, but I cannot see the slightest possibility that there can be gaps in
this genealogy where the fatherhood is so clearly stated. Your examples
above do not cover genealogies of this kind. So I think you have to face
the fact: If it can be proven that a worldwide flood did not occur around
2.400 BCE the Bible is wrong.



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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