Who Was Born When Enosh Was 90? A Semantic Reevaluation Of William Henry Green’s Chronological Gaps -- By: Jeremy Sexton

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 77:2 (Fall 2015)
Article: Who Was Born When Enosh Was 90? A Semantic Reevaluation Of William Henry Green’s Chronological Gaps
Author: Jeremy Sexton


Who Was Born When Enosh Was 90?
A Semantic Reevaluation Of William Henry Green’s Chronological Gaps

Jeremy Sexton

Jeremy Sexton is pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd in North Augusta, SC.

I. The Genesis Of The Primeval Chronology Debate

In 1890, William Henry Green, professor of Oriental and Old Testament Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary, published his seminal essay “Primeval Chronology.”1 He argued that “the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 were not intended to be used, and cannot properly be used, for the construction of a chronology.”2 He concluded that “the Scriptures furnish no data for a chronological computation prior to the life of Abraham.”3

Green’s proposal challenged the long-established approach to Gen 5 and 11. Biblical interpreters had been reading the genealogies as chronologies since before Christ. Jewish historians Demetrius (ca. 200 BC), Eupolemus (ca. 160 BC), and Josephus (ca. AD 93), as well as the authors of Jubilees (ca. 150 BC) and Seder Olam Rabbah (ca. AD 150), used the genealogies for chronological computation.4 Several early and medieval churchmen—for example, Theophilus of Antioch (ca. 168), Julius Africanus (ca. 218), Origen (ca. 230), Eusebius (ca. 315), Augustine (ca. 354), Bede (ca. 723), and Cedrenus (ca. 1060)—did likewise.5 Luther dated creation to 3960 BC, Melanchthon to 3963 BC, and “Geneva” to 3943 BC.6 During the interval between the Reformation and the publication of Green’s essay, Ussher dated creation to 4004 BC, Vossius to 5590 BC, Playfair to 4007 BC, Jackson to 5426 BC, Hales to 5411 BC, and Russell to

5441 BC.7 This is merely a small sampling of those who used Gen 5 and 11 for the construction of a chronology. By 1890 the chronological interpretation had deep roots.

Chronological computation has always been so inviting because Gen 5 and 11 specify the age of each patriarch at the birth of his descendant, unlike any other genea...

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