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Apparent Contradiction of Words and Numbers

Four Witnesses to a 430-year Sojourn in Egypt

Abraham’s Witness to a 430-Year Egyptian Sojourn

Jacob’s Life Requires a 430-Year Egyptian Sojourn

Elasticity of Hebrew Genealogical Terms

Abbreviated/Condensed Genealogies

Shem’s List: The Ultimate Example of Condensing

Shem’s Genealogy—Which Bible?

Evidence from the Lifespan of Job for Missing Generations

Evidence from the Message of Job for Missing Generations

Evidence from the Times of Job for Missing Generations

Biblical Earth Movements After the Flood

Peleg, Joktan and the Table of Nations

Historical Errors Obscuring the Condensing of Shem’s Line

Interpretative Errors Supporting Ussher View

The Missing World between the Flood and Peleg

Recent Scholarship Improves Biblical Understanding

Summary of Biblical Findings

Secular Evidence—Those Many Documents Unavailable to Ussher


Recent Scholarship Improves Biblical Understanding

Chapter Seventeen  

Sixteen detailed chapters have presented arguments from Scripture alone that the primary purpose of ancient Hebrew genealogies was identification, not succession.  With this focus, HB found that Scripture itself uses kinship terms in both narrow and broad senses.  Further, some of its genealogies are condensed.  Most importantly, this is true of the Shem list of Genesis 11.  It most surely omits 35-55 generations between Eber and Peleg, dating the Flood to somewhere between 3700 and 4400 BC.

While their numbers are decreasing, speakers in the creation movement insist that Archbishop James Ussher’s Flood date is correct and Shem’s list is a chronogenealogy.  This chapter shows why these views are incorrect, what it takes to be a true biblical inerrancy OT scholar today, the key doctrines dealing with the giving, preserving and transmitting of Scripture and a plea for open hearts. 

Archbishop James Ussher

The leading source for dating Creation and the Flood from Scripture was James Ussher (1581-1656), Anglican Archbishop of Ireland from 1625 until his death.  Ussher was a scholar and prolific writer for the faith.  Of all his works, he is most remembered for The Annuls of the World, a classic survey of world history.  Annals, written in Latin, appeared just six years before his death.  Two years after he died its English translation appeared.  In Annals Ussher advanced the idea that scriptural genealogies were complete and from their numbers the age of the earth (and universe) could be precisely determined.  He found the date of Creation to be the evening of October 23, 4004 BC and he dated the Flood at 2348 BC. 

Ussher’s scholarship and piety are indisputable.  He pursued learning, languages, books and writing.  In diplomacy he managed to walk a narrow path between supporting the English monarchy while not offending the freedom-seeking Parliament, even asking their permission to move to England.  He is said to have watched the execution of Charles I, but fainted before the ax fell.  Despite Ussher’s strong support for the throne, Oliver Cromwell who led Parliament in opposing the unlimited power of the crown insisted that he have an elaborate state funeral and be buried at Westminster Abbey.  Such was the esteem for his character. 

But Ussher labored under enormous handicaps.  For instance, the contribution of archaeology to early history was still several centuries away.  The great ancient manuscript discoveries were yet to be made. Hieroglyphics and cuneiform would not be deciphered for another 200 years.  Scholars were far more limited in their access to rare books for primary research.  While scribes came to take great care in copying Scripture by the eighth century AD, they passed on the mistakes of earlier scribes.  Since the venerable Bishop, those who serve God to determine precisely every letter or mark of the original Old Testament Hebrew text have made many textual improvements even though their work will never be completed. 

Dr. Merrill F. Unger and Dr. Eugene H. Merrill

The field that deals with textual accuracy lies within the general area of “Semitics and Old Testament Studies.”  Experts in it have mastered not only the original language of the Old Testament but also related Semitic languages and often spend a lifetime studying, writing and teaching the fruit of this discipline.  In addition, they have learned the broad fields of biblical archaeology and ancient Near East history and for those of faith, they pretty much know the OT backwards and forwards.  Invariably, these individuals have brilliant minds and are the top students.  Those who work with Scripture and hold to inerrancy are the authorities conservative evangelicals can trust to provide sound interpretations to the genealogical lists of the OT. 

Among such modern scholars are Merrill F. Unger and Eugene H. Merrill.  Unger, 1909-1980, maintained an amazing straight A record in all his course work at Dallas Theological Seminary leading to Master of Theology and Doctor of Theology degrees (possibly the only DTS student ever to do so).  The Master of Theology degree is a professional degree representing four years of course work beyond an acceptable college degree.  Unger earned his A.B. and Ph.D. degrees from world renowned Johns Hopkins University in his home town of Baltimore Maryland.   His Ph.D. was in Semitics and Old Testament Studies.  He grew thriving churches, was a popular conference speaker, chaired the Department of Old Testament during his entire 19-year tenure at Dallas Theological Seminary, taught Hebrew for years and wrote 26 books.  When he retired in 1967 the school made him Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Old Testament for life.  Such was the esteem in which he was held. 

Eugene H. Merrill (1934-Present) represents the next generation in the Unger tradition.  He earned two Ph.D. degrees, first at his B.A. and M.A. alma mater, Bob Jones University.  The second was in Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia University.  He earned three masters degrees including one at Columbia University in the field of his doctoral degree and one at New York University in Jewish Studies.  He taught in the Old Testament Department at Dallas Theological Seminary, one of the world’s largest Evangelical seminaries, for over 35 years and upon retirement in 2013 was named Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Studies.  He has written ten books and some 200 articles, mainly of a historical and exegetical nature.  He is an active churchman and preaches and teaches abroad on a regular basis. 

But who promotes Ussher’s view on the age of the earth today?  Certainly not Unger or Merrill!  These scholars find Ussher’s views of a short Egyptian sojourn and the genealogies being complete contrary to both Scripture and the history of the ancient Near East.  Unger felt so strongly about this error that he addressed it in considerable detail under the entry, “Genealogy,” of Unger’s Bible Dictionary.  The Dictionary itself represents the work of many Bible scholars over an entire century.  He expresses the standard thinking of conservative evangelical OT/Hebrew biblical scholars.  Reading his entire article discloses other important arguments.  Here are excerpts:

B. B. Warfield showed more than a generation ago that the Bible genealogies contained gaps (“The Antiquity and Unity of the Human Race,” Studies in Theology, New York, 1932, pp. 235-258).  The genealogies in Exod. 6:16-24, Ezra 7:1-5 and Matt. 1:1-17 contain omissions.  This is most certainly the case also in the genealogical lists in Gen. 5 and 11.  To use these genealogical lists in Genesis to calculate the creation of man (c. 4004 B.C.), as Archbishop Ussher has done, is not only unwarranted from a comparative study of Scriptural genealogies, but incontestably disproved by the well-attested facts of modern archaeology. 

The total length of the period from the creation of man to the flood and from the flood to Abraham is not specified in Scripture.  That the genealogies of Gen. 5 and 11 are most assuredly drastically abbreviated and have names that are highly selective is suggested by the fact that each list contains only ten names, ten from Adam to Noah and ten from Shem to Abraham.  It is quite evident that symmetry was the goal in constructing these genealogical lists rather than a setting forth of unbroken descent from father to son, in contrast to modern registers of pedigree.  Such symmetry with the omission of certain names is obvious from the genealogy of Matt. 1:1-17.  This fact is further corroborated by the evident latitude used in ancient Semitic languages in the expressions “begat,” “bear,” “father,” and “son.”  This usage is completely contrary to English idiom.  Thus to “beget” a “son” may mean to beget an actual child or a grandchild or a great grandchild or even distant descendants.  Usage extends to tribes or countries (Gen. 10:2-22), and even to non-blood relationship….  Accordingly, as J. H. Raven says in the regular recurring formula, “A lived . . . years and begat B, and A lived after he begat B . . .  years and begat sons and daughters, and B lived . . . years and begat C,” B may not be the literal son of A but a distant descendant.  If so, the age of A is his age at the birth of the child from whom B is descended.  Between A and B, accordingly, many centuries may intervene. 

The Genesis genealogical lists are not intended to divulge the antiquity of man upon the earth, but to set forth in outstanding representative names the line of the promised Redeemer (Gen. 3:15) from Adam to Abraham and to show the effects of sin and the altered conditions brought about by the flood and upon human vitality and longevity….  To place the flood so late as 2348 B. C. as is the case if the genealogies are employed for chronological purposes, is archaeologically fantastic.  Revised by M.F.U. [1] 

Unger’s extensive article should forever silence those who uphold Ussher’s 2348 BC Flood date.  Instead, it brought charges of heresy, going liberal, abandoning the faith.  Suddenly, he became the enemy.  On the other hand, HB’s second authority who agrees with Unger, Dr. Eugene H. Merrill, assures the creationist of what is certain.  He devotes many pages in support of the generally accepted dates among conservative evangelical scholars such as: 

I Kings 6:1…informs us that Solomon began to build his temple in his fourth year (967/966) which was also the 480th year after the Exodus.  This places the date of the Exodus at 1446 B.C.  In Exodus 12:40 we learn that Israel was in Egypt 430-years…”[2]

Both OT scholars are the friends of creationists, warning against error and affirming biblical truth.  But the author of HB is not an OT/Hebrew scholar.  Rather, he was the student of numerous inerrancy professors such as Unger.  Six years of such training in Bible school and seminary led to sixty years of studying and teaching Scripture from the viewpoint of inerrancy.  Even before discovering Unger’s article above, the author of HB had determined to restrict his suspicion of abbreviated genealogies to Scripture itself, rather than Scripture plus secular disciplines such as archaeology and ancient Near East history.  This approach yielded numerous abbreviated lists. 

While many creation science authors have spent a similar amount of time in some field of science, it seems appropriate to ask them to defer to inerrancy experts with extensive scriptural training and not to berate them when they reject Ussher’s view.  While those more theologically trained and those more scientifically trained both believe in inerrancy, the latter show themselves to be weak in their knowledge of biblical expertise when they become inappropriately dogmatic in their biblical viewpoint.  Further, this rides against the admonition of Ephesians 4:2-3 to maintain “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Unfortunately, today most young earth creation leaders who speak on the subject still advocate Ussher’s methodology and dates.  They turn a deaf ear to three and a half centuries of manuscript discovery and textual refinements.  Worst of all they possess none of the qualifications of true OT scholars such as Unger and Merrill for determining the truth of matters in these fields, yet they write entire books to perpetuate their errors.  Undiscerning creation scientists are taken in by their pseudo knowledge and authority claims and perpetuate their errors.  One of these current so-called authorities uses 7000 words to argue that Israel sojourned in Egypt just 215-years while Moses needed only 13 words to write “the time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years” (Exodus 12:40).  Surprisingly, many creationists take this man’s words over those of Moses.  Those in the creation movement need to learn from genuine conservative evangelical scholars instead of those who multiply arguments to perpetuate the errors of the past. 

Inerrancy, Preservation and Transmission of Scripture

Inerrancy, preservation and transmission are three doctrines related to Scripture reaching mankind with God’s message.  The first, inerrancy, also called “infallibility” and “inspiration” speaks of Scripture as without error.  In fact,“infallibility” means “without error” but is becoming the least used of these three words.  “Inspiration” comes from II Timothy 3:16 and begins Dallas Theological Seminary’s Statement of Faith.  It has to do with the method God used to give the Bible: 

We believe that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” [II Timothy 3:16] by which we understand the whole Bible is inspired in the sense that holy men of God “were moved by the Holy Spirit” to write the very words of Scripture. We believe that this divine inspiration extends equally and fully to all parts of the writings—historical, poetical, doctrinal, and prophetical—as appeared in the original manuscripts. We believe that the whole Bible in the originals is therefore without error. We believe that all the Scriptures center about the Lord Jesus Christ in His person and work in His first and second coming, and hence that no portion, even of the Old Testament, is properly read, or understood, until it leads to Him. We also believe that all the Scriptures were designed for our practical instruction (Mark 12:26, 36; 13:11; Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39; Acts 1:16; 17:2–3; 18:28; 26:22–23; 28:23; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 2:13; 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21).[3]

 Former Dallas professor of theology Dr. Charles Ryrie summarized inspiration as “God’s superintending of human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error, in the words of the original autographs, His revelation to man.”[4]

In recent years a large body of scholarly statements has developed around the word “inerrancy.”  A famous gathering of some 300 leading theologians in 1978, the Chicago Conference on Inerrancy, developed the following ideas:  "Inerrancy is the view that when all the facts become known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs, and correctly interpreted, is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether that relates to doctrines or ethics or to the social, physical, or life sciences."   But they make an important refinement: “We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.”[5]

The statement elaborates on various details in Articles formed as couplets of "We affirm … We deny …."  Also in this Statement, inerrancy applies only to the original manuscripts (which no longer exist, but can be inferred on the basis of extant copies), not to the copies or translations themselves.  Further, inerrancy does not mean blind literalism, but allows for figurative, poetic and phenomenological language, as long as it is accurate.  Leading conservative theologians regard the Chicago Statement as a thorough and reliable statement of what "inerrancy" involves. 

Dallas Seminary graduate and Bible teacher Hampton Keathley defined “Inerrancy” as

...a term used to explain that the Bible is completely true and contains no errors in the original autographs.  The reason inerrancy is an issue is because some religious “scholars” believe that the scripture contains errors, yet they continue to claim to believe in “inspiration.”  Actually, they’re trying to redefine “inspiration” to include possible errors. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss “inerrancy” because it assures that we understand inspiration to mean “without error.”[6]

In the same place Keathley summarized that “[Inerrancy means] freedom from error or untruths.  Synonyms include ‘certainty, assuredness, objective certainty, infallibility.’”  From the statements of the Chicago Conference, Dallas Seminary, Charles Ryrie and Hampton Keathley, it is clear that the authors of Scripture were guided or inspired by the Holy Spirit so that without waving their personalities or cultures, they were able to pen what God wanted written without error and that this statement only applies to the very document that author composed. 


In contrast to the doctrine of inerrancy which relates to the original writings, the doctrine of preservation acknowledges the integrity of God’s revelation in every generation as it spreads so that man can come to know Him and do His will.  Thus, preservation focuses on the quality of the Scriptures available since the original autographs were lost. 

Preservation asks how true are today’s copies of Scripture to the originals?  The answer comes from several directions.  One test of preservation is reliability.  How reliable is today’s OT?  Copies of many ancient manuscripts have come down to the present.  Like the Scriptures their originals have also been lost.  Like the Scriptures, scholars have collected copies of them and compared the copies to determine how much change has crept in.  In doing so the world of scholarship has come to realize that there are vastly more copies of ancient scriptural texts than nearly any other ancient writing.  By comparing these texts scholars have learned just how carefully the Scriptures have been preserved. 

Certainly, God the Holy Spirit moved the followers of Christ to put forth the massive effort required to produce so many copies of Scripture that survive from antiquity.  The tabulation of these copies is featured on the website maintained by Josh McDowell Ministries.[7]  A review of that website assures the world that it is no exaggeration to say that no other ancient text begins to compare with the reliability of Scripture.  In this way God has preserved His Word.

With the ever-increasing number of manuscripts being discovered, textual scholars have never been busier.  For example, they can now compare the Dead Sea Scrolls with the current MT and LXX texts.  When there is a difference, they must debate which spelling, which form of a word or even which word is the correct reading.  Sometimes the Hebrew MT is the preferred choice.  Sometimes the Greek LXX reading is selected.  Sometimes a third or fourth textual family is preferred.  Thus, this preservation is an astonishing testimony to the divine hand behind it.  It far exceeds other ancient books in trueness to the original writings.  The general conclusion is that Scripture has been preserved vastly beyond most other works. 

Another way in which God has preserved His revelation to mankind is by its repetition.  God led different authors to state the same truths so that if the truth was obscured or even lost in one or two places, it would be correctly preserved in other portions of Scripture.  By stating every major doctrine again and again in different places and in different ways, man has a clear understanding of every major doctrine of Scripture.  Because of this reliability, The Chicago Conference stated: “We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the originals. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.”


As the various books of the Bible were penned, others wanted them, so copies were prepared.  Copies wore out, so new copies were made.  Also, over time, Scripture was translated into other languages.  Now, the modern missionary movement is taking the written word to smaller people groups.  One missionary organization, Wycliffe Bible Translators, is dedicated to translating the Bible into every tribal language and has made good progress in the last 50 years.  All this copying and translating is a matter of transmission.  While transmission is man’s part, he must look to the Holy Spirit for enablement.  Since Bible translators strive for the most accurate translation, God has made His people partners with Him in the integrity of Scripture as well. Thus,  God partners with man to some extent in the preservation of Scripture as well as its transmission.

As we study this partnership, we realize God did not promise to preserve the Scriptures without error as they were transmitted through history.  In all, about 1% of the text was subject to question at the time of the rise of intense textual studies two centuries ago.  In fact, scholars have compiled a considerable list of errors found in any text, whether it be the Masoretic Text tradition or ancient manuscript finds or the Septuagint. 

Someone may object, saying that the scribes had a strict procedure for copying.  It is true that beginning about 500 AD an extended family of scribes called Masoretes living in the vicinity of Tiberias Israel began to develop procedures to guard against copying mistakes.  Over the centuries other scribes adopted these procedures and by about 800 AD those procedures were pretty much the standard.  But that was 1000 years after the LXX and 1200 years after the writing of the last Old Testament book.  In that millennium many copying errors crept into the various texts.  While most of them are mere matters of spelling, some are matters of the text itself like the erroneous text of Exodus 12:40 in the MT (see chapter 2B, The Witness of Moses.) 

Far more basic than determining the exact text is the authority of Scripture.  It is the key issue for the Christian church in this and every age.  Thus, various dangers must be avoided.  The most obvious is denying the divine origin of Scripture altogether which is an expression of unbelief and a rejection of God. 

People of faith can also err in many ways concerning Scripture.  The one addressed in the following section is to exaggerate the doctrine of preservation and minimize the work of transmission.  A proper balance between these two concepts must be found just as a proper balance between the sovereignty of God and the accountability of man must be found.  Happily, the informed Christian will avoid an overemphasis on the preservation of Scripture. 

Inerrancy Confused with Preservation and Transmission

Some Ussher supporters back their chronology by appealing to a faulty view of the preservation of Scripture.  They declare that God has promised to preserve the actual text of Scripture, the actual words of God including every original jot and tittle (Matthew 5:17).  Some even maintain that one existing Hebrew OT text and one existing Greek NT text contain the original text.  Compounding this error, some go so far as to believe that the King James Version is a divinely inspired translation and the only true Word of God in the English language. 

Neither Matthew 5:17 nor its context says or implies that the written text of Scripture will be preserved without error in any one manuscript.  What it does say is that God will fulfill all that the Law and the Prophets have said.  When this is pointed out, they jump to various other verses such as Romans 3:2, Mark 13:31, Jeremiah 1:12, Isaiah 40:8 and Psalm 12:6-7.  But none of these verses support their view either.  Rather, they promise that God will do what He has said and that what He has said is true and lasting.  Consequently, their view is both unbiblical and, in effect, trumps EVERY manuscript find and textual refinement.  It says textual scholars are unneeded and archaeologists should disregard any biblical texts they unearth. 

This overstatement of preservation is actually an attack on the word and character of God—God didn’t say what they claim and if He had, He would be guilty of error.  Yet everything God says is true—His word and His character remain unstained.  This view confuses preservation with inerrancy.  While inerrancy is held by all conservative evangelicals, this view of preservation is held by only a handful of advocates and the many thousands they have misled with their rhetoric. 

Getting the distinction between the doctrines of inerrancy and preservation right is essential in honoring the integrity of God.  As creationists declare the primary evidence for God, of all Christians they need to make sure they understand and teach this distinction lest they defeat their very objective.   However, preservation must not be equated with inerrancy.  This may be a difficult truth for some to grasp but it does have a practical application.  Maybe this is another way our Father is trying to tell us He doesn’t want us to strain over the exact age of the earth for He Himself has not stated it.  It is enough that we know the earth (and the universe) is exceedingly young, probably only 7000-9000 years old.

Another Uninformed Response

The genealogical list of Luke three contains the problem of two Cainans.  A leading creation apologist answered this problem by using material up to two centuries old.  Yet, The Dead Sea Scrolls which have only recently been available falsify his two-century-old material.  Eric Lyons of Apologetic press may well have put his finger on the solution when he wrote: “the simple fact is, just because one genealogy has more or fewer names than another genealogy does not mean that the two genealogies contradict one another.”[8]  Lyons concluded that Hebrew genealogies need not be complete to accomplish the author’s purpose.

God protects the Body of Christ through these scholars whose lives are devoted to the fields that address the Old Testament text.  Deferring to their learning would save much confusion and misinformation.  Why is it then that this creation scientist uses his fine mind to perpetuate the Ussher error rather than carefully reading the work of today’s true inerrancy OT scholars?  Table 8.8 contains a full report on Lyons’ comments. 

Summary and Appeal

It may seem petty to insist that the Flood be placed in the time frame of 3600-4300 BC rather than 2348-2550 BC.  But in view of three-and-one-half centuries of discoveries since Ussher that have revealed a world of human activity after the Flood, his 2348 BC Flood date becomes an obvious historical error that must be addressed.  Those in the creation movement who proclaim his approach place a stigma of naivety and ignorance on the entire creation movement so it is viewed as hopelessly uninformed.  As a result, the secular world often ignores the work of creation scientists. 

To their credit, creation scientists have showcased how Creation witnesses in so many ways to the existence of our wise, loving and powerful Creator God. They commendably emphasize inerrancy.  We love them for their sound contributions.  But their zeal in some cases is without knowledge.  Therefore, we find it necessary to adjure them to appreciate and be informed by those who are renown in relevant biblical fields in which creation scientists have not specialized. 

We also ask them to correct their published errors that support Ussher’s erroneous method and dates. They also need to ask for wisdom in cases where they have publicly condemned those scholars who clearly have right answers.  In this way, they will gain the respect and, hopefully, the support of inerrancy scholars and thus build a stronger testimony to our Creator God.   If this is done by the Spirit of God, their organization will be stronger, not weaker.  They will gain, not lose respect or following.

[1] Unger, Dictionary, 396.[2] Eugene H Merrill, An Historical Survey of the Old Testament, (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1966), 98.[3]       Dallas Theological Seminary, “Doctrinal Statement, Article I—The Scriptures,” (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary).[4]       Charles C. Ryrie, Class Notes, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1965.[5]       International Council of Biblical Inerrancy, “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” 1978.  [6]     J. Hampton Keathley III, “6. The Bible: The Inerrant Word of God,” Bibliology - The Doctrine of the Written Word, (Richardson, TX:, undated).[7][8] Lyons, “Was Cainan the Son of Arphaxad?” 

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