Written in the Book

Cainan, Son of Arphaxad

This article discusses points cited by modern scholarship apparently impugning the veracity of Bible history or miracle.

Is there an inconsistency in Luke’s summary of the genealogy of Christ where in Luke 3:35‑36 he interposes the name Cainan between Arphaxad and Sala, whereas none of the three "family trees" in the Old Testament, Gen.10. and 11, and 1 Chon.1 contain this name. Does this not impugn the reliability of the Bible generally? It is admitted the point is of little importance except perhaps to chronologers.

It is true that the present Hebrew text (the Masoretic) from which the Authorised Version and most modern translations are derived, omits this name. The Septuagint, the Greek rendering from the Hebrew made about 250 B.C., contains it. The Septuagint was the Bible in use at the First Advent and if Luke took his genealogies from the Book of Genesis he would naturally use this version and thus Cainan would appear in his list. It is thought though that he may have had his information from Temple or family records which then also would have had the name. This however only leads to the question; which is correct, Masoretic or Septuagint?

There has been a fair amount of crossing of swords over this problem. Existing copies of the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Bible of the Samaritans, which diverged from the Jewish Hebrew several centuries before Christ, omit the name and this is hailed as evidence from antiquity which should be given due weight. The earliest extant copies of the Samaritan Pentateuch, however, do not go back before the 10th A.D. century and it cannot be dogmatically stated that the name was not included in earlier copies. More significant is the fact that neither Josephus nor Philo of Alexandria, the two great Jewish historians of the 1st A.D. century, mention the name. Origen. 2nd A.D. century, indicates that in his day it was in the Septuagint but not the Hebrew copies he used.

Testimony to the affirmative comes from another source, the "Book of Jubilees", which is dated to about 150 B.C., the work of a pious Jewish priest. This book not only presents Cainan as the son of Arphaxad and father of Sala but gives some information about him. It appears that Cainan was a transgressor; he set out to find for himself a community whose possessions and dwelling‑place he might seize by force for himself, and while so engaged came across an ancient inscribed monument which recorded the teachings of the rebellious angels who had caused such havoc in the days of Noah. Although he knew this knowledge to be unlawful, he read it and copied it. So, says the chronicler, "he sinned owing to it". Dr. R. H. Charles, whose critical work on "Jubilees" has resulted in the present‑day translation, says that internal evidence points to it being based upon an independent Hebrew text other than those which led to the Masoretic and the Septuagint. Whether such possible variant text did contain this story of Cainan’s sin is impossible of verification; even if it is only a Jewish legend there must have been some foundation in older writings.

The position is, therefore:

Omits the name:
- Masoretic Hebrew text (Oldest existing AD 800)
- Samaritan Pentateuch (Oldest existing AD 900)
- Josephus "Antiquities" AD 100
- Syriac Peshitto (Oldest existing AD 464).
Includes the name:
- Septuagint (Oldest existing Alexandrinus circa AD 450)
- Jubilees (Oldest existing circa AD 350‑450).

There is no logical reason for the Septuagint translators or the author of "Jubilees" to invent the name and incident; there is much to support the view that it was deliberately expunged from copies of the Hebrew text during the few centuries immediately before and after Christ and that when the Massorites standardised the Hebrew text during the period AD 100 to 700 this expunging was made final. There are two possible—and probable reasons. The first is that this Cainan, recorded as a great transgressor, was "blotted out of the Book" on that account, as unworthy of a place in history. If so, he was not the only one to be thus treated. The length of the period of the Judges demands that a couple of generations have been dropped from history between Obed and Jesse in the line of Christ; in that lawless period quite likely for the same reason. The four apostate Judean kings—Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah and Jehoiakim—are omitted from Matthew’s record of Christ’s genealogy in the same fashion. There are other such cases. The second is that the Palestine Jews of the 1st AD century began making alterations to the chronological indications in Genesis to disprove the Christian claim that the appearance of Jesus at nearly six thousand years from creation—according to the Bible chronology of their time—was evidence of fulfilled prophecy and his Messiahship. Something like twelve hundred years was lopped off the patriarchal period, in two stages; this accounts for the difference between the A.V. and the Septuagint chronology. The expunging of Cainan completely would give them another hundred and thirty years.

The general view of scholars, that the mention of Cainan is an unwarranted addition to the Septuagint text, is based purely upon the number of versions—Syriac, Latin and some Greek, derived from the Hebrew Bible of the present era—which omit the name. The above‑mentioned considerations have not been given due weight. It is much more likely that St. Luke was fully knowledgeable on this matter and that when he included the name of Cainan in his genealogy he did so, on the strength of reliable and definite records which he knew to be correct. The Hebrew text certainly contained the longer patriarchal chronology in his day; logically it contained the name of Cainan also.