The Euphemist

Reflections on Jewish Studies and many other subjects big and little, by a perpetual student who sometimes searches a little too long for just the right word ...

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Christian, truth seeker, husband, son, brother & uncle, Lutheran pastor, musician (cello, etc.), Jewish Studies grad student, intellectual historian, aquarium enthusiast & pet owner, philologist, astronomer, Norwegian-American, Ford pickup driver, buffoon.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My dangerous idea about Genesis 11 LXX; hiatal comment festival

That time of year has come upon me again, when I need to curtail extra activities and concentrate on my schoolwork. I'm aiming to finish my essays for the "Medieval Judaism" course by the end of June, so I have the task upon me of proving that I've learned something about Medieval Jewish Philosophy (which I found mostly tedious, though with a few interesting highlights - Christian Scholastic thought owes more to it than most people realize); Mysticism (my take on Kabbalah is "Madonna can have it"); Biblical commentary (I much prefer Ibn Ezra over Rashi); Legal & Ethical literature (overall the most interesting part for me, to my total surprise); and liturgy (haven't gotten to that part yet).

So, I wouldn't rule out an occasional post between now and June 30. But I wouldn't count on it, either.

Before I hang it up, I've decided to skip ahead in the Septuagint to a dangerous idea that's been brewing in my mind for over 20 years, ever since I found out about the "Second Cainan". Here's the deal: Here's the typical reading of Genesis 11:11-12, as exemplified by the NIV translation:

And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters. When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah.

But here's the way verses 11-13a read in the Septuagint (Brenton's side margin translation given for convenience):

And Sem lived, after he had begotten Arphaxad, five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Arphaxad lived a hundred and thirty-five years, and begot Cainan. And Arphaxad lived after he had begotten Cainan, four hundred years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Cainan lived a hundred and thirty years and begot Sala.

So how did that extra guy get in there? Evidently many have simply viewed it as a mistake, as apparently did Irenaeus and Eusebius, but I have a hard time dismissing it because of Luke 3:35-36, ... the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem ... So Luke included the "extra guy" in the geneology of Christ. As a Christian I've long believed the New Testament to be an authoritative guide to the Old Testament, and it seems to me therefore that Luke's Gospel is an authoritative guide to Genesis 11. My "dangerous idea" is that, according to Luke 3:36, the Septuagint preserves a more accurate rendering of Genesis 11:11-12 than the Masoretic text does. Any thoughts?

While we're at it, during my blogging hiatus this month I'll invite one and all to the First Annual Hiatal Comment Festival. Besides being the first known use of the adjective "hiatal" in some other connection besides a hernia, it is an invitation to post a thoughtful, hilarious, or even moderately outrageous comment on anything that somehow relates to this blog. Your goal is to somehow provoke me to come out from under my rock and respond to your comment. Have at it, and "see" you soon!

34 Comments:

Blogger Honey Bear said...

I guess I'm not very good at this, I sent a rather long comment yesterday introducing myself. Then I saw your date read Septmber 2005 so I figured you weren't on anymore. Now it says May, 2006. Is theres any way you can post a comment on mt site?

7:42 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Somehow the other comment must not have worked, but this one did, so thanks for stopping by and finally getting my "comment festival" started!

6:16 AM  
Blogger emily said...

ooh, a comment festival! great idea! you seem very educated as far as ancient texts. i don't know much about that, but i do know this: the Holy Scriptures never err. it is inspired by God Almighty, therefore it cannot possibly contain error.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Thanks for stopping by, Emily, and for testifying to the inerrancy of Scripture. I also believe that Scripture cannot err because "all Scripture is inspired by God and useful ..." (II Timothy 3:16). In fact, that's why to me it seems important to explore the little-known issue of the "second Cainan" in Luke 3 and Genesis 11.

Here's the scoop: if all Scripture is inspired, then that includes Luke 3:36, which says that Cainan was the son of Arphaxad. Bible scholars have carefully researched and compared all the ancient Bible manuscripts that have been found, in order to figure out as much as possible the exact original text of each book. There are variations that have been found, though none of them has ever changed a single Bible doctrine (I see that as a piece of evidence for inspiration). An example of the variations is that some manuscripts of Luke 3:36 say "Cainan", others "Cainam". Big difference, huh?! But every single ancient manuscript of Luke names Cainan/Cainam, which tells me that he should also be named in Genesis 11:12, which he isn't, in most Bible versions (NIV, KJV, NKJV, ESV, RSV, etc. etc.) because they are translating from the best known Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament.

That's generally a good policy, because the Old Testament was written (mostly) in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. It's generally better to translate from the original than to translate from a translation.

But with ancient manuscripts, an important translation can sometimes be an important piece of evidence about the original, and I think that's the case with the Septuagint, a very important Greek translation of the Old Testament that was made in the last few centuries before Christ was born. The Septuagint version of Genesis 11:11-13 includes Cainan, so I believe Luke was referring to it when he wrote Luke 3:36. And since Luke was writing under divine inspiration, he must have been making the right choice.

Our modern translations of the Old Testament are generally based upon the text established by the Masoretes, a group of Medieval Jewish scholars who worked hard to figure out how the Hebrew Scriptures originally read. Overall they seem to have done an excellent job. For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls include a number of scrolls of Biblical books such as Isaiah, hundreds of years older than any manuscripts that had been found before. When they were compared with the Masoretic text, there were very few differences (again, to me an evidence of inspiration, as well as the preservation of Scripture).

But, my "dangerous idea" is that there are points here and there in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) where we should use New Testament readings to pick the Septuagint reading over the Masoretic reading, because the Septuagint in those spots is based on a more accurate Hebrew original than the Masoretic text.

If that was confusing, let me know, and I'll try to rephrase it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael,

I think that it is admirable that you are looking into this "second Cainan" question. I also have studied this question and have come to the conclusion that there is no second Cainan. This seems to be the work of an error of a scribe.
I will offer a couple of pieces of information that were helpful to me.
John Gill, the eminent Baptist theologian, states in his commentary on Luke 3:36:

"This Cainan is not mentioned by Moses in (Genesis 11:12) nor has he ever appeared in any Hebrew copy of the Old Testament, nor in the Samaritan version, nor in the Targum; nor is he mentioned by Josephus, nor in (1 Chronicles 1:24) where the genealogy is repeated; nor is it in Beza's most ancient Greek copy of Luke: it indeed stands in the present copies of the Septuagint, but was not originally there; and therefore could not be taken by Luke from thence, but seems to be owing to some early negligent transcriber of Luke's Gospel, and since put into the Septuagint to give it authority: I say "early", because it is in many Greek copies, and in the Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, even in the Syriac, the oldest of them; but ought not to stand neither in the text, nor in any version: for certain it is, there never was such a Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, for Salah was his son; and with him the next words should be connected."

The reference here to Josephus can be found in his Jewish Antiquities Book 1, Chapter 6, Section 4. Since Gill's comments were written, P 75, the oldest existent manuscript of Luke's gospel, has been unearthed and the name Cainan is not found in it.
Another thing that was helpful to me was an article by Eric Lyons on Apologetics Press called "Was Cainan the son of Arphaxad?" You can find it at http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/580
Lyons discusses this issue in depth. Another helpful article from Apologetics Press is "The Reality of Copyists' Errors"
by Bert Thompson, Ph.D. and Eric Lyons, M.Min. It shows several errors in the bible that came by way of the errors of scribes. They also state, which I believe, that these errors do not mean that God's word is fallible. What it does mean is that men are fallible in copying the inerrant word of God. The "autographs" of the books of the bible (that is the original inerrant, god-breathed versions of scripture) are perfect, but since the originals have long since turned to dust, it was essential for scribes to copy them, hence the arrival of occasional "typos."
I hope that this helps you in your quest for truth.
God bless you!

-Caleb
bub1981@hotmail.com

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