Creationism and Discrepancies in Biblical Chronologies

This is a repost of mine from the DebateEvolution subreddit, but I thought it would be nice to discuss a few theological/biblical problems with young earth creationism.

When YECs argue for a young earth, the main evidence for their argument is based on biblical stories and chronologies; otherwise, there is a distinct lack of scientific evidence for their position.

In this post, I will discuss three reasons why we cannot directly use biblical chronologies and numbers, based on the bible .

(1) We know biblical redactors edited chronologies to have different numbers - for example, the Samaritan Pentateuch, Masoretic Text, and Septuagint all have different patriarchal genealogies in an attempt to reconcile the ages of the Patriarchs with when the Flood occurred.

As I have remarked in previous articles, it is fairly well-understood that the story of the Flood was a later insertion into a patriarchal foundation story that didn’t have it. (For a recent paper on this, see Derschowitz 2016.) In an earlier text, Cain, the eponymous founder of the Kenite (Cainite) tribe, was the ancestor of an unbroken genealogy that included the founders of various industries practiced by the tribe — shepherding, metalworking, etc. His genealogy was replaced with Seth’s by the Priestly author, and precise lifespans were assigned to each patriarch from Adam to Noah and beyond.

According to research by Old Testament scholar Ronald Hendel among others (Hendel 2012), the insertion of the flood story in Noah’s day created a problem that later scribes couldn’t overlook: if you did the math, the long-lived patriarchs Jared, Methuselah, and Lamech all survived for many years past the Flood, even though the Flood story made it clear that all outside the Ark had perished.

The editors of the LXX, SP, and MT had basically two ways to solve the problem: either delay the year of the Flood by delaying the age at which the patriarchs begat sons, or have the patriarchs in question die sooner. Here’s what each of them did:

The LXX’s editor methodically added 100 years to the age at which each patriarch begat his son. Adam begat Seth at age 230 instead of 130, and so on. This had the result of postponing the date of the Flood by 900 years without affecting the patriarchs’ lifespans, which he possibly felt were too important to alter. Remarkably, however, the editor failed to account for Methuselah’s exceptional longevity, so old Methuselah still ends up dying 14 years after the Flood in the LXX. (Whoops!)

The editor of the SP adopted a simpler method. He just altered the lifespans of the three patriarchs that posed a problem. Adjusting their ages as little as possible, he had them die in the same year as the Flood.

The editor of the MT chose to keep the lifespans untouched (like the LXX), and he altered the age of begetting only for the three patriarchs affected, pushing back the Flood date as a result. He first added 100 years to Jared’s begetting, and then 120 years to Methuselah’s. This reduced the overlap to 94 years. By adding 94 to Lamech’s begetting, he completed the fix, placing Methuselah’s year of death in the year of the Flood.

Source: Some Curious Numerical Facts about the Ages of the Patriarchs | Is That in the Bible?

Derschowitz 2016 argues with that these chronology discrepancies are a result of biblical redactors trying to resolve problems that cropped up (ahem!) because Noah’s Flood was inserted into a passage originally about Noah’s drought .

Pdf available here

An easy to read article discussing Noah, the hero of the great primeval famine is here

For example, in Genesis 8:21, God says he will never curse the ground again, which is typical Hebrewspeak for famine, while elsewhere Noah is described as the man of the land and vineyards, not as the man of the Flood. Indeed, Noah’s naming in Gen 5:29 is a promise to the future where Noah will relieve Adam’s curse of the soil/land by God;

Gen 5:29 This one will provide us relief (ינחמנו) from our work and from the toil of our hands, out of the soil which YHWH placed under a curse.[11]

The affliction or “curse” to which Lamech refers cannot be the future Flood; Lamech speaks of an existing curse on the ground, which is likely the same one that YHWH promises not to renew in 8:21.

(2) The people in the same chronology in different books of the bible vary - For example, Manasseh’s genealogies are quite different between Numbers, Joshua, Chronicles

The discrepancies are well explained by the fact that genealogies historically had a different purpose -

When compared to the genealogy of Numbers 26, in Joshua 17, Machir is no longer part of the line of the six brothers, but represents a different line, while Gilead is no longer a “person” or clan at all, but merely a toponym. This division of eastern vs. western sons reflects the geographical change that occurs between Numbers 26 and Joshua 17: In Numbers 26, all of Manasseh is in the Transjordan, but in Joshua 17, the Cisjordan has been conquered, and the families are split based on their lands.

The genealogy then, is not a simple attempt to describe the “real” family structure of eponymous ancestors but rather an attempt to make sense of the relationships between clans in the time of a given author and/or within certain literary contexts. This point is particularly important for when we try to understand the very different Manasseh genealogy found in 1 Chronicles 7:14–19.

(3) There are many numerical discrepancies recorded in the bible we have today - if they are present in our bible today, how can creationists argue that Ussher’s chronology is correct on the age of the earth?

For example, here are discrepancies between Chronicles vs Samuel/Kings;

1 Chr 11:11 vs 2 Sam 23:8 - 300 or 800 slain by Jashobeam

1 Chr 18:4 vs 2 Sam 8:4 - Hadazer’s 1000 chariots and 7000 horsemen vs 1000 chariots and 700 horsemen

1 Chr 19:18b vs 2 Sam 10:18a - 7000 vs 700 Syrian charioteers slain

1 Chr 19:18b vs 2 Sam 10:18a - 40000 footsoldiers vs horsemen

1 Chr 21:5a vs 2 Sam 24:9a - Israel’s 1100000 troops vs 800000

1 Chr 21:5b vs 2 Sam 24:9b - 470000 troops vs 500000 troops

1 Chr 21:12 vs 2 Sam 24:13 - 7 years vs 3 years famine

1 Chr 21:25 vs 2 Sam 24:24 - Ornan paid 600 gold shekels vs 50 silver

2 Chr 2:2,18 vs 1 Ki 5:16 - 3600 to supervise temple construction vs 3300

2 Chr 2:10 vs 1 Ki 5:11 - 20000 baths of oil to Hiram’s woodmen vs 20 kors (=200 baths)

2 Chr 3:15 vs 1 Ki 7:15 - temple pillars 35 cubits vs 18 cubits

2 Chr 4:5 vs 1 Ki 7:26 - sea holding 3000 baths vs 2000 baths

2 Chr 8:10 vs 1 Ki 9:23 - 250 chief officers for building temple vs 550

2 Chr 8:18 vs 1 Ki 9:28 - 450 gold talents from Ophir vs 420 gold talents

2 Chr 9:16 vs 1 Ki 10:17 - 300 gold bekas per shield, vs 3 minas

2 Chr 9:25 vs 1 Ki 4:26 - 4000 stalls for horses vs 40000

2 Chr 22:2 vs 2 Ki 8:26 - Ahaziah king at age 42 years, not 22

2 Chr 36:9 vs 2 Ki 24:8 - 2 Ki 24:8 - Jehoiachin king at age 8 vs 18

Above compilation from John Walton’s textbook “A Survey of the Old Testament” figure 16.1


  1. Biblical chronologies conflict in timelengths
  2. Biblical chronologies conflict in the people of the same genealogy, recorded in different books
  3. There are numerous numerical discepancies in the bible

how do creationists rationalise that the earth must be xxxx years of age?

There are differences of opinion on translation and copy errors, but you’re missing the point. Try to find a YEC that holds a YEC position because of a certain dating method. I doubt you’d find many. It has to do with death and natural evil being a result of the fall. The number of years described and a global flood gives a scientific framework to work from.

7 posts were split to a new topic: Human Birth Accounts in the Hebrew Bible

Regarding the fall, the fall was likely written as polemic against the Nehushtan (serpent) that was present in the temple until Hezekiah smashed it.

The biblical story of Moses and the bronze snake was likely written to explain why there was a serpent in the temple;

The narrative in Numbers appears to be an etiological tale from before Hezekiah’s reform, explaining the origin of this copper serpent.[5] The author of the tale in Numbers was familiar with this image (Nehushtan) either in fact or by reputation, and felt that the presence of such a figure among the Israelites, perhaps even in the Temple itself, needed explaining. Thus, he insisted that, despite how people may have treated it, the copper serpent was never meant as a representation of a deity, but was designed for healing. Its construction was commanded by YHWH and implemented by no less a figure than Moses.[6]

Why the serpent was in the temple was likely cultural history;

The most reasonable solution to the puzzle of Nehushtan is that it was a pre-Israelite, Egyptian style cultic image of a serpent mounted on a sacred pole. For the Canaanites, it likely represented a deity with some relationship to the goddess Asherah, and was retained as part of the “cultic paraphernalia” of the worship of YHWH in Jerusalem. Sometime before the reign of Hezekiah in the 8th century B.C.E., an etiological tale was composed attributing the erection of Nehushtan to Moses during the wilderness wandering as a way of justifying this unusual cultic image.

Nehushtan likely became popular for a short time in the early days of Hezekiah, when he was in league with Egypt and even adopted Egyptian imagery on his personal seal. After Hezekiah submitted to Assyria, the Egyptian imagery became anathema and was removed from Judahite seals, and the statue of Nehushtan was removed as well. The fate of the image is unclear, but it may have become part of the booty or tribute that Hezekiah used to pay off his overlord, King Sennacherib of Assyria.

Hezekiah’s story was reimagined by the Deuteronomistic historian, composing and compiling his work in the glow of Josiah’s reform, and imagining Hezekiah as having engaged in a similar process. For that Deuteronomistic historian, the removal of a copper serpent would naturally have been seen as part of that reform.

In summary, Hezekiah likely removed the Nehushtan, which was probably Egyptian iconography, as a result of submitting to the Assyrians.

For those interested, Hezekiah’s seal with multiple Egyptian motifs on it is here

The serpent in the fall was a seraph, which had wings (which is why God told it to go to ground on its belly).

But what, indeed, is a “seraph”? We find the answer to that question also in Isaiah: “For from the stock of a snake there sprouts an asp, a flying seraph branches out from it” (14:29), and also “of viper and flying seraph” (30:6). From these verses it becomes clear that seraphs were in fact flying serpents: the temple envisioned by Isaiah was filled with serpents with arms, legs, and wings, and it seems likely that this was the tradition that Isaiah knew regarding the primeval serpent in the Garden of Eden, before God transformed it into a dirt-slithering animal. Indeed, this is the image of the paradisiacal snake that we find in the pseudepigraphic book Life of Adam and Eve. Here, when God curses the serpent, God says, “You shall crawl on your belly, and you shall be deprived of your hands as well as your feet. There shall be left for you neither ear nor wing” (26:3).


The idea that the snake in the Garden of Eden was a seraph with legs, arms, and wings suggests that also the story in Genesis was part of the polemic against the serpent-seraph that was installed in the Jerusalem Temple. The story in Genesis remarks that, with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden, God stationed cherubim-also winged creatures-“to guard the way to the tree of life” (3:24). It seems that in the course of the cultic revolution in the Temple in Jerusalem, these winged cherubim-explicitly linked with the Ark of God in Exodus 25:18-22 and other places-replaced the winged serpents as the official flying guards in the divine entourage (see also, e.g., Ezekiel 10:2).

–Avigdor Shinan, From Gods to God

3 posts were merged into an existing topic: Human Birth Accounts in the Hebrew Bible

“Scientific.” Uh huh.


It’s an interesting thesis (but not obvious or the only option), but if the goal is to show problems for YEC, this is not the best strategy. Focusing on the internal inconsistencies within the MT (I choose this b/c this will be the one YECs will say is closest to the inspired)–as you show–is a better route. Then, we would need to show that the problem is not simply a matter of translation or copy error (as @thoughtful states…though her main point is elsewhere).

BTW, there’s a lot more disparity among scholars about source criticism than some of the statement here suggest (e.g., “what’s generally understood”).

It’s an interesting thesis (but not obvious or the only option)

You’ve made me curious;

what other reasonable parsimonious options are there, that you think explains what we observe in the biblical +/- ANE flood/famine passages the best?

Source criticism explains much of the contradictions and… interesting observations we see in the biblical passages.

Reminds me of my very well respected OT professor at bible college (I was studying there part time while working part time as a career medical officer, planning on becoming a pastor), when I asked about source criticism and the golden calf episodes, he replied, effectively, that source criticism explains many observations very well, but perhaps the passages are like that for another reason.

What other reasonable reasons have you?

Did Aaron and Jeroboam each independently make a single golden calf for the people to idolize over, and both proclaim “Behold your gods (plural) oh Israel, who led you out of Egypt”, using the plural gods despite making a single calf each? Did Aaron name his children Nadab (meaning generosity) and Abihu (meaning He is my father), and Jeroboam, the apostate king, really name his children Nadab and Abijah (meaning YHWH is my father)? Did Nadab and Abihu really die by holy fire, just like Nadab and Abijah died premature deaths?

Did Jeroboam believe he was worshipping another God? Or was the golden calf YHWH? We have Samarian ostracon 41, which says “Yahweh is a calf”. Or perhaps the calf was God’s footstool? Note that the LXX preserves the description of the throne of Solomon resting on a calf in 1 Ki 10:19, which later the Masoretes were uncomfortable with and removed given its association with idolatry.

Perhaps Jeroboam’s error was not idolatry per se. Perhaps Jeroboam’s primary error was not appointing the priests of Shiloh as the official temple priests (1 Ki 12:31), even though the priests of Shiloh helped make him become king.

For reference, the golden calf episodes


Is there an explanation for the above observations about the golden calf episodes other than source criticism?

An analogy from Australian politics (apologies if none of you are interested) -

perhaps the reason why the Australian media demonised Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull both of whom subsequently lost their jobs as Prime Ministers of Australia was because Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull would not suck up to Rupert Murdoch.

In this case, the Priests of Shiloh were Rupert Murdoch, and Jeroboam was Kevin Rudd / Malcolm Turnbull.

Some Americans might make a similar analogy with JFK.

I have no problem with the idea of sources. But parsimony isn’t how I’d describe source criticism as a discipline. Even modern advocates are all over the map these days on methodology and outcomes. And there are a lot in the academy who’ve abandoned it entirely. There are plenty of resources out there that address the pros and cons at length (I honestly don’t have the desire or energy to adjudicate this in an online forum.) The OP was about YEC, which is why I focused my thoughts on the best strategy to address them (if one is seeking to engage them).

For my own part, I focus on literary-theological issues in the present text, regardless how it came to be. Using the various criticisms (including source) can be useful, but I’m reluctant to give too much attention to getting behind the text, which often involves a lot of subjectivity and sometimes questionable presuppositions.


As you say, you focus on literary-theological issues.

In your view what is more likely, literary-theologically-

Jeroboam had children named Nadab and Abijah, who died prematurely


Aaron had children named Nadab and Abihu, who died by holy fire from God


Jeroboam was initially appointed by God to follow Solomon and Rehoboam

AND then Jeroboam turned out to be an apostate against YHWH


Jeroboam decided to celebrate his newfound kingship by appointing a new god for his people


the position that

Solomon kicked out Abiathar and the priests of Shiloh for supporting the wrong brother in the fight for the throne


Jeroboam was appointed by the priests of Shiloh to recover their position as priests that they had lost under Solomon


Jeroboam then decided not to appoint the priests of Shiloh as official temple priests, thus causing them to

Repudiate Jeroboam as king


Jeroboam gave his children Yahwistic names in Nadab and Abijah (YHWH is my Father), both of whom died premature deaths


YHWH was represented by a calf (Samarian ostracon 41),


Jeroboam was actually making a feast to YHWH (it doesn’t make sense for a newly crowned king to alienate his subjects by changing the official religion).


Aaron’s episode and children’s names were polemic against Jeroboam and his family.

Theologically, literally - was Jeroboam really an apostate against YHWH?

Or is it simply propaganda by the author?

Is the traditional conservative evangelical position more likely to be correct (the first set), or the secular biblical studies view?

These are historical questions. But, from a literary-theological standpoint, yes he was an apostate. Whether this also involves propaganda from the author is a different point. And we’re way past the OP now.


It is interesting to note that the bible says that blessings will come to those that follow YHWH, and disaster to those that do not.

The bible itself tells us that disaster came to Hezekiah, and to Josiah - two of the most faithful kings, and in particular Josiah, who, according to the Deutoronomist, followed God with all his heart, mind and soul.

Archaeology tells us that Omri, Ahab, Jeroboam, supposed apostate kings, were some of the most successful, biblical propaganda notwithstanding.

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