Thursday, February 18, 2016

Archaic Rulers, Ascendancy, and the Foreshadowing of Christ

Over the past few days I have been having a conversation at VirtueOnline with two friends. The conversation began with comments about the 10th century Aleppo Codex, the oldest surviving copy of the Hebrew Bible, now recognized as an UNESCO world treasure.

As is evident from reading the comments (reproduced below), the conversation strayed into matters of greater antiquity. Bruce and Rodd have graciously given me permission to reproduce their comments at Just Genesis.

Alice C. Linsley 

That information about the Aleppo Codex is very interesting, but this is not very old. Today we have so much information about the people who gave us the oldest material in the Bible. They spoke neither Hebrew nor Greek. Their scripts suggest signs of great antiquity that have been found rather widely: Africa, Palestine, Central Europe, ancient Bactria. etc.

Bruce Atkinson

That was my own take: 10th century is old for an almost complete codex, but we are talking about almost a thousand years into the Christian era. Not too helpful regarding scholarly understanding of the true originals. There are many much older partial manuscripts. Even the Greek Septuagint version of the OT used by the early Christians is far, far older. One must wonder how much editing occurred during the previous 900 years as a result of the rise of Christianity (which led to minimizing the Messianic prophecies that pointed to Jesus)? As a Jewish relic, it has much value, but not for gaining knowledge of the earliest Hebrew/Aramaic manuscripts.

Alice C. Linsley

Indeed, the question of redaction is intriguing. The Septuagint says that Eliezer, son (dam) of Masek (not "Damascus") was one of Abraham's sons. This does not appear in the later Hebrew (Masoretic) texts. There is also a discrepancy in the numbers assigned to the archaic rulers in Genesis 4 and 5. Lamech the Younger is assigned 753 years in the Septuagint and 777 years in the Masoretic.

Bruce Atkinson

Fortunately, there are not too many of these differences and the ones that exist do not compromise essential doctrines. My own view is that God especially helped the Septuagint translators because (of course) He knew that this Greek translation would be the one that the first Christians (including Jesus) would use. Hebrew was already a dead language (like NT Greek and Latin is today) and Greek schools had existed in Palestine for over a hundred years. Although they spoke a pidgin Aramaic in their daily life, educated Jews in the first century knew Greek as well, so the Septuagint was their everyday Bible.

It is also interesting how many of the Christian translators and theologians later switched to the Masoretic (Hebrew) texts, even though the OT quotes in the NT are almost all taken from the Septuagint. I think this switch was a mistake.

Artistree (Rodd)

Bruce I agree; it was definitely a mistake to switch from the Septuagint to the Masoretic text. In the book, "When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible" (Oxford University Press), author Timothy Michael Law goes into great detail about how Jerome went about making the switch when he translated his Latin Vulgate from the proto-masoretic text instead of from the Church's Bible at the time, the Septuagint. When it can be shown how he, by his own decision alone, went about making this switch (by dishonesty and underhanded tactics), one is amazed at how the Roman Catholic Church could consider this very arrogant and dishonest man a "Saint". True, Jerome was brilliant, but he was no "saint", in my book.

Alice C. Linsley

Jerome's grasp of ancient Semitic roots is astonishing. He was one of the most learned men of Christian antiquity. A classically trained scholar, he became a monk and resided in Bethlehem. His insights into Genesis are remarkable. For example, Jerome, notes: "I am reviewing carefully the places in Scripture where I might find old age mentioned for the first time. Adam lived for 930 years, yet he is not called an old man. Methuselah's life was 969 years, and he is not called an old man. I am coming down all the way to the flood, and after the flood for almost three thousand years, and I find no one who has been called old. Abraham is the first, and certainly he was much younger than Methuselah." (Homilies on the Psalms 21)

Jerome's observation is significant. Abraham was old. Those who lived before the flood are not called "old" because the numbers assigned to them are symbolic.

In the Vulgate, St. Jerome rendered Genesis 3:15: Inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem, et semen tuum et semen illius: ipsa conteret caput tuum, et tu insidiaberis calcaneo eius.

I will put enmities between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring. She will crush your head, and you will lie in wait for her heel.”

Jerome noted that the Hebrew is ipsa which is a feminine pronoun. The appearance of the feminine pronoun in Genesis 3:15 led some to find an elevated role for Mary, as seen in images of Mary standing on the globe with the serpent under her feet. Of course, this image is found in the Latin tradition, but not among the Eastern churches. Still, Jerome is respected in the East as well as the West.

Here is an article on St. Jerome's excellent reflections on key ideas in Genesis.


Hi, Alice. I have a question. I use English translations of the Septuagint as my primary study bibles but also use standard common English translations for comparison.

I've been looking at the various names in Jacob's family in Genesis 46. Genesis 46:27 in the Septuagint, after listing all the names, says, "Thus all the souls of Jacob's house who went to Egypt were seventy-five". Comparing that to the Masoretic (my RSV) which says, "....all the persons of the house of Jacob, that came into Egypt, were seventy."

Luke, in Acts 7:14, agrees with the Septuagint," And Joseph sent and called to him Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five souls."

My question is this: When I count the names listed in either text, I do not come up with 75 names as in the Septuagint rendering, or 70 in the Masoretic rendering. Do you believe these numbers, 70 or 75, are symbolic, or am I counting wrong? Or is there another explanation?

Also, it appears that women are not included in the number of souls/persons who enter Egypt from Jacobs family....could you comment on that briefly? Why not list daughters?


Alice C. Linsley

Rodd, you are wise to use both versions when studying the Bible. Discrepancies like this reveal different perspectives and a good understanding requires recognition of these perspectives. They are like facets on a diamond.

Daughters are rarely named in the king lists, but when they are we should pay close attention. These women are key to understanding the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the ancient Habiru/Hebrew. That is the case with Namaah, Anah and Oholibamah. Abraham's had nine sons and it is certain he had daughters also. The daughters of ruler-priests married the sons of ruler-priests (endogamy).

Numbers in the Bible are usually symbolic and reflect a context. For example, the number 40 - as in "40 days and 40 nights" - has a Nilotic context. The Nile flooded for 40 days and the people who had left their homes waited another 40 nights before returning home. It took "40 days and 40 nights" for the waters to recede. The number 40 does not appear in the book of Daniel because that has a Babylonian context in which other numbers hold more symbolic importance.

For the Masoretes (Temple scholars of the 6th–10th centuries AD) the number 7 was a sacred number as it was associated with their very ancient priesthood. This is evident in the priestly account of Noah's flood where Noah is told to take 7 sets of "clean" animals onto the ark. Contrast this with the older account in which he is told to take 1 set: male and female (Note the binary feature: male-female, which is a distinguishing trait of the older versions of the flood and the creation).

What I find most provocative about this discrepancy is the suggestion in the Masoretic text that not all the Habiru (Hebrew) went down to Egypt. This is certainly true since there were many Hebrew clans besides Jacob's at this time. Among them were the clans of Seir the Horite, Elon, Esau the Elder, and Uz.

Genesis 38 tells us that Judah, who had gone down to Egypt with his father, came back to Canaan where he had relations with Tamar. It appears that the ruling men of Jacob's clan continued to interact with kinsmen and business associates in Judah, Edom and Beersheba.

Artistree (Rodd)

Thank you, Alice. I appreciate your deep knowledge.

I try to utilize many perspectives in my studies also, besides the different text families. I do have a couple of study Bibles that give the JEDP Theory, including the Jewish Study Bible and New Interpreters Study Bible NRSV , and have spent a fair amount of time with Scholars such as Daniel L. Smith-Christopher. I've been very impressed, on the other hand, by Gary A. Rendsburg, professor of Jewish History at Rutgers University. He argues for a single author of Genesis and builds on the work of Umberto Cassuto ( Hebrew University, in the 1950s) and Michael Fishbane of Chicago University. The cyclical literary patterns in Genesis ( Primeval History, Abraham cycle, Jacob cycle, and the Joseph story) are very persuasive in the argument for a sole author. Rendsburg places the date of Genesis very late, in the period of the Davidic Court ( The Redaction of Genesis, 1986). Still other scholars such as those editors of the Ignatius Study Bible series argue for the primary authorship of Genesis being Moses ( with later editing), the later showing the chiasm/chiastic structure of Genesis but putting an earlier date on the work than Rendsburg. One can find diamonds in all of the various perspectives in Biblical studies.

Thanks again for all the useful nuggets of info!

Alice C. Linsley

Umberto Cassuto is one of my favorite commentators on Genesis. The JEDP has limited benefits, in my opinion, but is not altogether worthless. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that the final hand on the Genesis material is the Deuteronomist, and this is a revisionist voice.

Bruce Atkinson

Good questions, Artistree. Surely Alice has some better hypotheses than I. I have heard of the discrepancies (70 vs. 75 vs. ?). I just figured that they were a bit loose about such details in those days or some copier had a slip of the 'pen .' But who in 2016 really knows why?

And my off-the-top assumption about not counting daughters was merely part of the patriarchal tradition-- which was consistent with most other cultures of that time. But again, any answer we come up with today will be speculative.


Actually, in some books there are not too many differences, but in other books there are substantial differences. For example, the Masoretic Book of Jeremiah is 20% longer than the Septuagint Book of Jeremiah...that is a lot of verses!

After the Dead Sea Scrolls, many scholars are now of the opinion that the "extra material" in the Masoretic Jeremiah was added later, and probably an addition to the original Hebrew text.

but I would agree, these differences do not change essential doctrines. Although, it is pretty clear that St. Paul used the Greek OT and drew his theology from it, and it would have been much more difficult for him to show that his thought was biblical had he been referencing the Hebrew text.

Bruce Atkinson

Agree. And thanks for the info, Rodd. I am enjoying reading your exchange with Alice.

Alice C. Linsley

Such differences are themselves very informative. The Septuagint is correct about Eliezer being a son of Abraham, and the Masoretic text presents the number that is consistent with the ancient Cain (7)-Lamech the Elder (77)-Lamech the Younger (777) narrative.


Alice, Could you give me the verses in the Septuagint that confirms Eliezer being a son of Abraham ? I must have missed it as I've been going through Genesis again.

Alice C. Linsley

"O Lord God, what can You give me seeing that I shall die accursed, and the steward of my household is Dam-Mesek Eliezer?" (Gen. 15:2)

The Hebrew is challenging here as there is either an attempt at play on the sound ben meshek (Meseq)... with dam mesek. Or the two were intended as a parallel, since they mean the same thing: "one born to Masek."

It appears that Abraham had two concubines: Hagar and Masek. This was not unusual among the Habiru rulers. Consider Jacob's 2 concubines.

The reference to Masek as a "handmaid" is clearer in the Orthodox Study Bible, based on the Septuagint. Gen. 15:2 reads: "And Abraham said, 'Lord, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus, the son of Masek, my domestic maid servant." The "of Damascus" is probably a mistake, but the Orthodox Study Bible committee decided to leave the place name.


Thank you again, Alice. I did read that verse last night and figured that was the verse you were referring to, but your added insights are very, I missed so much having read this story so many years in our standard Masoretic to English translations.

The NETS Genesis 15:2 reads, "....O Master, what will you give me ? And I, I am going away childless; as for the son of Masek, my female homebred will be my heir, he is Damascus Eliezer".

I too think the OSB is clearer with, "the son of Masek, my domestic maidservant."

The Analytical-Literal Translation of the Septuagint reads, " but the son of Masek my home-born female slave....
The two concubines also sheds light on the meaning of Genesis 25:5-6, right? "Now Abraham gave all his possessions to Isaac. But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of his concubines;"

Thanks for your time !

Alice C. Linsley

Yes, two concubines means these other sons had to be "gifted" and "sent away" from Isaac, Abraham's heir. In total, Abraham had nine sons. His first born was Joktan (Yaqtan), born to Keturah. Ishmael was a sent-away son. Isaac (Yitzak) was the heir to Abraham's territory between Hebron and Beersheba. Sent-away sons are part of the marriage and ascendancy pattern of Abraham's people. Sent-away sons are the most heroic figures because they have to rely on God to establish them. They include: Cain, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David. All are "sent away" from their homes for a reason and God fulfills His promises to all of them. This pattern extends to Jesus Christ who left his "home" to become one of us, and through Him God delivers the promise of the eternal kingdom.


I'm curious. Are you using extra biblical material to establish Joktan , Keturah's son as Abraham's firstborn ? I realize that Genesis is not written in strict chronological order ( example, Abraham dies at the beginning of chapter 25 but is actually still alive when Jacob and Esau are born after struggling in womb of Rebekah later in the chapter). The literary patterns and cycles overlap and repeat common themes and don't record events the way moderns write history, yet I don't get the sense Keturah was in the picture before the Visitation of the Angel of Lord, where the Word of God makes the Promise to Abraham regarding the his Seed and the son of Promise.

Alice C. Linsley

According to the marriage and ascension pattern of the Habiru rulers as it is revealed in analysis of the biblical data, the cousin bride was the second wife taken later in life. The first bride was a half-sister and taken in the man's youth. Abraham's two wives lived in separate settlements on a north-south axis. These settlements marked the northern and southern borders of his territory. Sarah lived in Hebron and Keturah was in Beersheba. After Sarah died Isaac spent a great deal of time in the area of Beersheba. Jacob also lived in Beersheba for a time according to Gen. 28:10 and in Hebron according to Gen. 37:1-14. The second wife was necessary to establish a territory/kingdom. Abraham was following the custom of his forefathers. In New Testament terms the Church is the Bride taken as Christ ascends to the throne of His eternal kingdom. "Your kingdom, O Lord, is an eternal kingdom. Your dominion endures through all the ages." - Psalm 145:13

We don't know exactly when Abraham married Keturah, but it would have been when he was seeking to establish himself in the land. That was before Isaac was born. We have separate concerns here: to become established in the land and to have a proper heir to the throne. This sheds much light on Abraham's Complaint.

The proper heir to the throne was not the first born son, in this case Yaqtan/Joktan, but the first born son of the half-sister bride which was Isaac. The first born of the cousin bride was named for his maternal grandfather in whose territory he served as a sort of prime minister. That is why there are many Habiru rulers with the same name: Lamech the Elder and his grandson Lamech the Younger; Esau the Elder and Esau the Younger, Joktan the elder, Keturah's father, and Joktan the Younger, her son. This is called "the cousin bride's naming prerogative" and this feature enables us to trace Jesus' ancestry from the rulers of Genesis 4 and 5 to Joseph and Mary.

What is remarkable about this? This unique and distinctive marriage and ascendancy pattern could not have been written at a late date back into the various books of the Bible. This is a case where the anthropological science of kinship analysis proves that the data is authentic and true.


Mwana Wa Mukango said...

Please shed more light on this:Genesis 38 tells us that Judah, who had gone down to Egypt with his father, came back to Canaan where he had relations with Tamar.

Alice C. Linsley said...

The Habiru chiefs moved freely between Egypt and Canaan. They had kinsmen in both regions. This is illustrated by the names of Judah's sons: Er and Onan. Their names represent two territories in which the Habiru lived and exercised influence. Er/Ur refers to the eastern territory of the Mesopotamian Habiru, and Onan (Onn) refers to the territory centered at Heliopolis (biblical On) on the Nile. Joseph, one of Jacob's sons, married the daughter of a priest of On (Gen. 41:45). All of these Habiru were ethnically Kushite. That is, the point of origin of their ancestors was the Nile Valley.

Later we find that one of Joshua's sons was named Er. This name was passed down by Judah's cousin wife Shua who was a daughter of a chief named Er. See the diagram here:

Anonymous said...

I'm Theo, reading Ghana and I must admit I'm surprised seeing all these interesting stuff that's never mentioned in church for proper scriptural education. Thanks a lot Alice.

But kindly give me links to download the Septuagint. God bless you.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Theo, you probably have a version of the Old Testament that is based on the Greek Old Testament, called the Septuagint.

If not, The Orthodox Study Bible is based on the Septuagint.