Popular Dates Used in Archeology
An Analysis of Assumptions Based on the Septuagint
by Bob Pickle
Back around 1990, the present author heard a lecturer on archeology say that since the Septuagint (LXX) had an extra 1000 years in the genealogical list found in Genesis 11, he felt it permissible to date civilizations 1000 years earlier than what the Masoretic text would allow. This idea, though perhaps popular, is a fallacy. At the very most, only 450 years extra are allowed.
The Hebrew Old Testament text that most Bibles today are based upon is the Masoretic text, a text preserved by the Masorete Jews. There are two other versions available: the LXX and the Samaritan Pentateuch. The LXX is a Greek translation of the Old Testament done by Jews in Egypt before the time of Christ, and is often quoted from by the writers of the New Testament. The Samaritan Pentateuch was the Bible of the Samaritans.
These three texts differ in the ages assigned to the fathers at the time of the birth of their sons in both Genesis 5 and 11, resulting in a difference in chronologies.
The reader will notice that there are two possible totals for the LXX. This is because different manuscripts of the LXX have different readings for some of the figures.
Apparently, the archeology lecturer overstated his case. The LXX actually gives only 880 years more than the Masoretic text for the number of years between the Flood and Abraham's birth. And this is not all, but to proceed further we must first examine the genealogy given in Genesis 11. The following table gives the age of each individual at the birth of his son according to each of the different texts. Terah's age at the birth of Abraham is given rather than his age at the birth of his firstborn son.
The key to the whole question is the date of the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel. Since it is inconceivable that we could have advanced cultures in various parts of the world before the dispersion of the nations from the Tower of Babel, then the ascertaining of this date would provide us an outer limit for the dating of archeological finds.
Regarding Peleg we read:
Sometime during the life of Peleg, the dispersion occurred. Therefore, the earliest date for the dispersion of the nations from the Tower of Babel is the birth of Peleg.
An examination of the table above reveals that the LXX gives either 350 or 450 years more from the birth of Peleg to the birth of Abraham than the Masoretic text. So even if we use the LXX's chronology, we have at most only 450 years more to work with, not 1000 more.
What kind of a date might this give us for the Tower of Babel? If the Exodus occurred around 1445 BC, and if the 400 year's oppression of Israel began when Isaac was weaned around five years of age (when Abraham was 105)1, then Abraham's birth was 505 years before the Exodus, or around 1950 BC. That means that according to the Masoretic text, the dispersion of the nations occurred around 2201 BC, and according to the LXX around 2551 or 2651 BC.
Thus the dating of multitudes of archeological finds as being older than around 2551 or 2651 BC has no biblical basis whatsoever. And if we stick with the Masoretic text, which can be argued to be superior than the LXX in a number of ways, then we need to keep the dates of finds from large cities to around 2201 BC or later.
What then is the basis for the unbiblical dates so prevalent in today's archeology? That is a question very difficult to answer. Books abound that give this date and that date, but when one searches for a book outlining the reasons why such dates are used, as well as the raw data utilized in making such interpretations, the search becomes rather long and often fruitless.
Donovan A. Courville, author of the 1971 two-volume set, The Exodus Problem and Its Ramifications, explains what happened:
All fine and good. But what if the dynasties were put together wrong? And they were, as all now agree. The accepted chronology of ancient Egypt is now much shorter than it once was, for it was eventually discovered that some of the dynasties were contemporaneous rather than consecutive.
It was Courville's contention that Egyptian chronology should be collapsed even further by making even more dynasties contemporaneous. His books were an attempt to show how this could and should be done in order to harmonize the archeological finds of Palestine with biblical history.
Sure, his attempt may be improved upon, but his idea was good. Can it not be assumed that God got it right when he inspired Moses to write the genealogies of Genesis? And should not the biblical text be considered more trustworthy than the opinions and theories of fallible men, opinions and theories which are often proven wrong and then changed or discarded?
If you know of any solid, raw data that unequivocally puts various civilizations in different places before the Bible's date for the dispersion of the nations, would you please forward it to the present author? Unless someone can produce such data, we will have to conclude that many of the ancient dates given by modern archeology are erroneous.
1 The 400 years' oppression apparently began with Ishmael's persecution of Isaac (Gal. 4:29). This must be about right because the genealogy of Moses in Exodus 6:16-20 does not allow for all 400 years to take place after Jacob and his family arrived in Egypt.
Also, Galatians 3:17 says plainly that there are 430 years between Abraham and the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai. Yet there are 190 years between the birth of Isaac and Jacob's arrival in Egypt, leaving 240 years or less between Jacob's arrival in Egypt and the Exodus.
If we start the 430 years when Abraham left Haran at the age of 75, then the 400 years would begin when Abraham was 105 and Isaac was 5.
If this reconstruction of the chronology of those times is not correct, it should at least be very close.