Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | August 11, 2008

17. Age of the Earth—Luke & Cainan Puzzle

(3 Minute Read)


Luke’s genealogy of Jesus grounds Jesus in humanity and history by giving His full genealogy in Luke 3:23-38.

This genealogy traces the ancestors of Jesus, father by father, all the way back through King David, Abraham, and Noah to Adam.

Some people think that the appearance of an extra name, Cainan (son of Arphaxad and father of Shelah), in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus as given in our English Bibles indicates that there is a gap in the Genesis 11 genealogy where Arpachshad (not Cainan) is given as Shelah’s father.

Luke 3:35-36 lists Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Cainan, Shelah.
Genesis 11:10-15 lists Shem, Arpachshad, Shelah but does not include Cainan.
The genealogies in both Luke and Genesis 5:6-15 agree on the earlier line of Seth, Enosh, Kenan (or Cainan), Mahalalel. (Note the similarity of Kenan and Cainan which will be important in the solution to this puzzle.)

Does this mean that the Genesis 11 genealogy skipped a generation? No, it doesn’t.

In this series of blog posts on the Age of the Earth, I have already given many sound linguistic and contextual and Scriptural reasons why the Genesis genealogies are complete. In particular, I gave compelling arguments that begat (yalad) indicates immediate descendant in the Genesis chronogenealogies in these previous posts:
9. Age of the Earth—What Does Begat Mean?
10. Age of the Earth—Interlocking Genealogies
11. Age of the Earth—Any Gaps in Genealogies?
12. Age of the Earth—No Genealogical Gaps

How can Luke’s extra “Cainan, son of Arphaxad” be understood in light of the clear record in Genesis that Arphaxad’s immediate son was Shelah, not Cainan? This post and the next blog post will deal with this issue.

To begin with, here are facts about the absence of Cainan from early Old Testament manuscripts.

  • The Masoretic Hebrew text of the Old Testament (upon which our English Bibles are based) does not include Cainan in Genesis 11:13.
  • The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament about 200 BC in Alexandria, Egypt) did not originally contain Cainan because the 1st century BC Jewish historian Josephus omitted Cainan in his chronology. We know he based it on the Septuagint of his day because he used the Septuagint numbers instead of the Masoretic numbers for his chronology.
  • The Christian historian Julius Africanus (circa 180-250 AD) published a chronology in 220 AD which omitted Cainan. His chronology was also based on the Septuagint because he used the Septuagint numbers. He also had access to Luke. Did his copy of Luke omit Cainan? Probably so, for otherwise he would have commented on the discrepancy.
  • Theophilus, bishop of Syrian Antioch (169-181 AD) and founder of the science of Biblical chronology, used a Septuagint version without the extra Cainan.
  • Church father Eusebius in the 4th century AD used a Septuagint version without the extra Cainan.
  • The Vatican’s copy of the Septuagint does not have the extra Cainan.
  • The Samaritan Pentateuch (a Hebrew text from the 1st century BC) does not include Cainan in Genesis 11:13.
  • The Syriac Old Testament (a 1st or 2nd century AD Syrian translation) does not include the extra Cainan.
  • The Targums do not contain Cainan. These are Jewish commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures written in Aramaic for Jews whose native tongue was not Hebrew—probably begun during the Babylonian exile and accelerated under Ezra (Nehemiah 8:5-8; Ezra 4:18). They were written down by the late 2nd century AD, if not earlier.
  • The Latin Vulgate (Jerome’s translation circa 400 AD) does not contain Cainan in Genesis. Jerome was the greatest scholar of his day and the Vulgate heavily influenced all later translations including Wycliffe (1383), Coverdale (1535), Luther, and the King James (1611).

No Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament contain Cainan son of Arpachshad. As late as 220 AD, no Greek Septuagint versions of the Old Testament listed Cainan. Only very late versions of the Septuagint list Cainan son of Arpachshad.

Our English Bibles are based on the Masoretic Hebrew text which is uniformly believed by almost all scholars to be more faithful to the original God-breathed text than the Greek Septuagint.

The earliest known copy of Luke is the Bodmer codex papyrus from around 175-225 AD. It does not contain the extra Cainan son of Arphaxad.

So what happened? If the extra “Cainan son of Arphaxad” is not in any Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament and only in Greek Septuagint copies made long after Luke was written, and he is not in the earliest Luke manuscript, then how did the extra Cainan get in later manuscript copies of Luke and of the Septuagint?

My next blog post 18. Age of the Earth—Luke & Cainan Explanation will propose a possible explanation.

Soli Deo Gloria.

This is the 17th in a series of blog posts on the Age of the Earth. I began with the Biblical testimony that the earth is 6,000 years old, because the evidence from nature should be interpreted and understood in the light of clear Biblical truth. The prequels considered the issue’s importance and what Jesus thought. Current posts are analyzing the Genesis genealogies. Future articles will survey the historic teaching of the church and discuss scientific evidence on the age of the earth, explaining fallacies of radiometric dating methods and giving examples of scientific methods which yield short ages.

Read the prequels:
1. How Old Is the Earth?
2. Why Is the Age of the Earth Important?
3. Earth: Young or Old?
4. Age of the Earth—Jesus’ View
5. Age of the Earth—Jesus Interpreted OT Literally
6. Age of the Earth—What Did Jesus Say?
7. Age of the Earth—What Did Jesus’ Contemporaries Think?
8. Age of the Earth—Genealogies
9. Age of the Earth—What Does Begat Mean?
10. Age of the Earth—Interlocking Genealogies
11. Age of the Earth—Any Gaps in Genealogies?
12. Age of the Earth—No Gaps in Genealogies
13. Age of the Earth—Any Missing Generations?
14. Age of the Earth—Scriptural Confirmation (Adam to Noah)
15. Age of the Earth—Scriptural Confirmation (Noah to Abraham)
16. Age of the Earth—Luke’s Testimony

Read the sequel:
18. Age of the Earth—Luke & Cainan Explanation

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Monday August 11, 2008 A.D.

These are the records of the generations of Shem. Shem was one hundred years old, and became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; and Shem lived five hundred years after he became the father of Arpachshad, and he had other sons and daughters. (Genesis 11:10-11 NASB)


  1. We are very interested in your next post and look forward to reading it!
    We appreciate your work!


    • Thank you for reading and for your encouraging words. I appreciate it.


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