The Tanakh is precise about dates. It places its story within a specific time frame, by reference to events, ages, persons, etc. I understand the Old Earth Creationism claim which lengthens the time within Genesis One to beyond a 7-day week of 24 hour days. But once Adam appears, how does the OEC get around the fact the Tanakh gives a precise history, placing Adam at the most at 6000 BCE?
How much allegory can be read into numbers? How can anyone reading the Bible conform it to the evidence of humans existing before 6000 BCE? (I am always puzzled at the concept of Old Earth Creationists who accept science as “trumping” Genesis One regarding the age of the earth, but deny science “trumping” the Bible when it comes to cosmology or evolution. How did they pick one over the other?)
For some time I have wanted to go through the Tanakh to see how precise a dating system we can have, and I was given a reason to do so on a thread elsewhere. It was interesting enough. The easiest way to do this is to work backwards.
926 BCE – Shishak (also known as Pharaoh Shoshenq) attacks Rehoboam. (1 Kings 14:25-28; 2 Chron 12:1-12) Rohl has attempted (unsuccessfully) to claim this was, in fact, Ramesses II, not Shoshenq, which would move the date of this attack back by about 300 years. Rohl calls this a “New Chronology.” The problem with Rohl’s claim, is that Assyrian King Lists, as well as other histories, align with the current Egyptian chronology. In order to modify it, we also have to introduce, wiggle, wrestle and create elaborate possible explanations and wild theories to resolve the other histories. The simplest explanation, rather than turn the world upside down to somehow make the Bible align, is that this was Shoshenq. The vast predominance of Bible scholars agree.
931 BCE – Since the attack of Shishak occurred five years into Rehoboam’s reign, this would be the first year of Rehoboam and the last year of King Solomon.
971 BCE – Solomon starts to reign [He reigned for 40 years.] (1 Kings 11:42). Four years into his reign (967 BCE) he began to build the first temple. This is critical, because this date gives us our jumping off point to cover the time of David, Saul, Judges, Joshua and Exodus. We make a large leap back in time at this point.
1447 BCE – Exodus from Egypt. 1 Kings 6:1 says Solomon began to build the temple 480 years after the people left Egypt. The Septuagint says 440 years. (For the moment, I will use the Masoretic Texts) Adding 480 years to 967 BCE gives us 1447 BCE.*
*An anomaly. Paul claims in Galatians 3:17 the law was given 430 years after the covenant was made with Abraham. Abraham was 75 at the time of the covenant, (Gen. 12:1-4) which we will soon see was 2092 BCE. This would place the Exodus at 1662 BCE. I have seen on my internet travels, when apologists want to play funny with the dates, rather than use the 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1, they work around Abraham and Paul to move the date of the Exodus. I have not seen this contradiction addressed head-on.
1877 BCE – Jacob enters Egypt with his family. Exodus 12:40-41 says this was 430 years prior to the Exodus, fixing us to this particular date. It also conforms to the four hundred years predicted by God in Gen. 15:13-16**
**Anomaly Two. Exodus 6:16-20. We have the genealogy of Levi (son of Jacob) -> Kohath -> Amram -> Moses. Levi lived to be 137, Kohath 133, and Amram 137. However, Joseph was at least 30 (probably older) when the family moved to Egypt, and Levi was his older brother, so the most conservative age would have Levi being 31 when the family moved to Egypt. Adding all the time: Levi , Kohat , Amram  and Moses up to the time the people left , subtracting the time Levi did not live in Egypt [-31] puts us at 457 years. Close to the 430 years, true? But this would mean each of the individuals had their sons very, very late in life. All of them would have to be over 100 years old.
At the moment we have a date certain (1877 BCE) to work backwards from. The method of doing so is simple. Jacob was 130 years old when he entered Egypt. (Gen. 47:9) Therefore we can determine the year he was born. 1877 BCE + 130 years = 2007 BCE. We are told Isaac was 60 years old when he had Jacob. (Gen. 25:26; Gen. 35:28-29) Now we can calculate the year Isaac was born. 2007 BCE + 60 years = 2067 BCE.
With the simple process we can progress backward and use the age of the fathers at the time of the birth to calculate the year the father was born. Where were we? Ah, yes—Isaac.
2067 BCE – Isaac Born.
2167 BCE – Abraham Born. (He was 100 when Isaac was Born. Gen 21:5; 25:7)
2237 BCE – Terah Born (Gen 11:26; 11:32)
2266 BCE – Nahor Born (Gen. 11:24-25)
2296 BCE – Serug Born (Gen. 11:22-23)
2328 BCE – Reu Born (Gen. 11:20-21
2358 BCE – Peleg Born (Gen. 11:18-19)
2392 BCE – Eber Born (Gen. 11:16-17)
Eber named Peleg because of the Great Divide. The Tower of Babel. (Gen. 10:25). This would place the event of the Tower of Babel between 2392 BCE (Eber’s birth) and 2358 BCE (naming of Peleg).
2422 BCE – Salah Born. (Gen. 11:14-15)
2457 BCE – Arphaxad Born (Gen. 11:12-13)***
***Another Anomaly. According to Luke 3:36, a fellow named “Cainen” is inserted between Salah and Arphaxad. P75, one of the earliest manuscripts we have of Luke does not have Cainen. Further, Josephus, in his similar genealogy in Antiquities 1.6.5 does not have Cainen. Curious.
2459 BCE – Flood (Gen. 10:10-11)
2557 BCE – Shem Born (Gen. 11:10-11; 5:32)
3059 BCE – Noah Born. (Gen. 9:29)
Interesting to see Noah lived 950 years, or from 3059 BCE to 2109 BCE. Notice Noah was alive at the time of the Tower of Babel!
3241 BCE – Lamech (Gen. 5:28-31)
3428 BCE – Methuselah (Gen. 5:25-27)
Methuselah. Oldest recorded living person in the Tanakh at 969 years of age. 3428 BCE – 969 years = 2459 BCE. Year of the Flood. Coincidence?
3493 BCE – Enoch (Gen 5:21-24)
3655 BCE – Jared (Gen. 5:18-20)
3720 BCE – Mahalalel (Gen. 5:15-17)
3790 BCE – Cainen (Gen. 5:12-14)
3880 BCE – Enosh (Gen. 5:9-11)
3985 BCE – Seth (Gen. 5:6-8)
4115 BCE – Adam (Gen. 5:3-5)
It is simple math. Calculated from agreed upon dates within history. How can the Bible be read any what BUT humans first appeared only a few millennium ago? And the flood spoken of was in 2500 BCE?
One common apologetic you may come across in this area is the claim “When the Jews wrote genealogies, they would ‘skip’ a generation. The word ‘begat’ does not necessarily mean a direct ancestor and the words ‘son of’ do not necessarily mean a direct ancestor.” The most common example utilized is the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1.
Matthew 1:1 states, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” As we know Jesus was not the actual son of David, nor David the actual son of Abraham; this would seem to support the apologetic. However, the problem is that this is an introduction—not a specific genealogy. In fact, to demonstrate the point, the author immediate launches into a genealogy which clearly indicates the intended linage.
Within the genealogy itself, though, the author definitely engages in some generation-skipping. Matthew 1:8-9 only has “Joram -> Uzziah -> Jotham “ whereas 1 Chron. 3:11-12 has “Joram -> Uzziah (Ahaziah) -> Joash -> Amaziah -> Azariah -> Jotham.” Apparently the author missed a few! This is further complicated by the fact the author states he is grouping the genealogy in three (3) sets of 14, (Matt. 1:17). Did the author deliberately cut out a few in order to maintain this magic number? [Only to have a later copyist blow it anyway. If you count the names, there are only 41, demonstrating some copyist left one out!]
We see generation skipping in this genealogy. No question. Yet we also see a stated purpose for doing so (keeping the number to 14.) What was the stated purpose of the authors of the Genesis genealogies to skip generations?
Secondly, I have not found any demonstration it was common practice to skip generations in other genealogies. It should be mildly noted this is a circular argument:
1. We know it was common practice to skip generations because the Bible author does.
2. The Bible author skips generations because it was common practice to do so.
Thirdly—the one that puts a fork in it—these genealogies give very specific ages. Even if there WAS generation-skipping—it doesn’t change the numbers!
Assume, for an instant, the genealogy stated, “Abe begat Charles.” The apologist could claim, under this generation-skipping theory, the possibility of inserting “Bob” between “Abe” and “Charles—thus lengthening the time indicated. In fact, the apologist can insert “Bob,” “Bob, Jr.,” “Bob the III” and so on, and claim that “Abe begat Charles” was a period of 1000’s of years with hundreds of “Bob’s” in-between.
But that is not what we have. No, what WE have is “Abe begat Charles when Abe was 34.” A period of 34 years between Charles’ birth and Abe’s birth. If you want to insert a skipped generation—go ahead. It will still only be 34 years! We could insert “Bob” as follows: “Abe begat [Bob who begat] Charles when Abe was 34.” See how old Abe is? Still 34! See how many years have passed? 34.
This argument completely fails to understand that inserting generations doesn’t help it one bit, due to the specificity of numbers.
Since nothing is straightforward in Biblical studies, mention must be made about the Septuagint. A Greek translation of the Hebrew Tanakh which was complied some time in the Third Century BCE. The Septuagint has numerous ages within these genealogies where it adds 100 years to the age of the father. For example, instead of saying Adam had Seth at 130 years of age, the Septuagint states Adam was 230. Instead of Seth being 105, the Septuagint says 205. Enosh is 190 instead of 90 and so on.
There has been no cogent explanation for this seemingly arbitrary adding of 100 years. No explanation of translation issues, or even textual errors. I suspect the translators were already seeing the problem of placing history so close, especially with greater contact amongst foreign histories, and decided to lengthen the time as best they could. Even by adding 100 years, though, due to the limited number of people, at best this totals approximately 1400 years, placing Adam to 5500 BCE.
I am curious how Old Earth Creationists explain these dates. Was God s-l-o-w-l-y developing the earth and then… BAM! Hits it with humans 8000 years ago? Or do we not only analogize “days” to mean “millions and millions of years” in Genesis One, but start analogizing the humans listed? The genealogies? Those years?
The authors of Genesis’ intentions are clear. They thought humans had only been around for a short period of time. They were wrong. How much more could they be wrong about?