The Chronological Value Of The Genealogy In Genesis 5 -- By: Frederic Gardiner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 030:118 (Apr 1873)
Article: The Chronological Value Of The Genealogy In Genesis 5
Author: Frederic Gardiner


The Chronological Value Of The Genealogy In Genesis 5

Frederic Gardiner

The first impression produced by reading over the genealogy in the fifth chapter of Genesis is, perhaps, that each of the patriarchs mentioned was the first-born of his father. On a moment’s reflection, however, it appears a most extraordinary circumstance that in all the long line from the creation to the flood, each first-born should have been a son, and should have lived to become himself a father, and a father, too, whose first child was a son. On a closer examination of the narrative, it is found that this is not at all asserted. On the contrary, the very first name on the list shows that it was not intended. Gen. 5:3 reads, “Adam lived 130 years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth.” But we know, from the previous chapter, that Cain and Abel had been born long before — long enough to have been engaged in manly occupations before the birth of Seth; and it is altogether probable that the unknown daughter of Adam who became the wife of Cain, and perhaps also many sons and daughters of whom no mention at all is made, were born in the long interval between the births of Cain and Abel and that of Seth. The first impression derived from this genealogy is, therefore, certainly wrong. May this be also true of other and more important impressions?

It is stated of each of the patriarchs mentioned in this genealogy, that he lived so many ‘years, and begat a certain son, and that after he had begotten this son, he lived so many years and died. Hence it has been thought possible,

by adding together the number of years in each case before paternity, to determine the whole length of the period embraced in the genealogy, and consequently the time which man existed upon the earth, or, at least, the time during which more than a single pair existed, before the deluge. This determination is one of much interest, both in itself and in its connection with recent scientific investigations. It has been thought to rest upon a secure basis, and has become the foundation of various chronological systems; the only point of uncertainty being whether the numbers as given in the Hebrew, the Samaritan, or the Septuagint were the most to be relied upon. It may seem rash to call such a conclusion in question; and it is obvious that if it should be set aside we are left without any basis for antediluvian chronology, except such as, determined by almost the whole length of the patriarchal lives, would be included only within very wide limits — limits separated by extremes of three or four thousand years. Let us then see precisely what is the basis on which the present c...

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