It is very instructive to read the chronological passages found in the works of Josephus. There are several anomalies, and with the critical eye of an investigator, one can perceive the work of forgers, who came upon Josephus’s original account, and tried to organise it in accordance with their own agenda, a scheme that reveals itself with a small amount of arithmetical computation.
Let us begin by quoting what he had to say about the period of time from Adam to the Flood. Speaking about the Flood, he says,“This calamity happened in the 600th year of Noah’s government, in the 2nd month, called by the Macedonians DIUS, but by the Hebrews MARCHESVAN; for so did they order thei year in Egypt, but Moses appointed that NISAN, which is the same as XANTHICUS, should be the first month for their festivals, because He brought them out of Egypt in that month; so that this month began to year as to all the solemnities they observed to the honour of God, although He preserved the original order of the months as to selling and buying, and other ordinary affairs. Now He says that this Flood began on the twenty seventh day of the aforementioned month; and this was 2656 years from Adam, the first man; and the time is written down in our sacred books, those who then lived having noted down, with great accuracy, both the births and deaths of illustrious men.” (Ant.1.3.3)
Two chronological events are here mentioned. The first being the 27th day of the month, which in fact is an error, but one that cannot be attributed to Josephus, because he mentions the number of 150 days, thereby establishing the fact that it the Flood began on the 17th day, not the 27th. There seems to be no reason why this timing has been changed, so we shall put it down to a copyist’s error.
But the second time period, namely 2656 years, has been changed from the original by someone who was not very careful as a forger. Josephus goes on to make a chronological list of all the antediluvial patriarchs, and by simple arithmetic, one can easily arrive at the interval from Adam to the Flood as being 2256 years. But the interval has been extended from the original Hebrew, which adds up to 1656 years. The forger therefore found the number 1656 in the above quotation, and simply changed it to 2656. The original “shows through” because the change from 1656 to 2656 is less questionable than the changing of 1656 to 2256. As a result of this “useful” slip on the part of the forger, we are in a position to say that he must have added 100 years to no less thansix of the patriarchs as to their age at the birth of their sons. (By the way, 2656 could have been a copyist’s error for 1656.)
We have another way of checking the original value in Josephus. On two further occasions in his writing he gives us figures to use. The first of these is found in Ant.8.3.1, where he gives the following information – “From Adam, the first man who was created until Solomon built his Temple there had passed in all 3,102 years, but from the Flood, 1,440 years.” By simple subtraction we can find the number of years from Adam to the Flood, viz. 3,102 – 1,440 = 1,662. Allowing for slight error in calculation, 1,662 is obviously the figure of 1,656 in the Hebrew version.
The second reference is in Ant.10.8.5 where we read, “From the Flood to the destruction of the Temple [by Nebuchadnezzar], the whole interval was 1,957 years, but from the generation of Adam until this befell the Temple, there were 3,513 years.” By subtracting 1,957 from 3,513 we obtain 1,556 for the interval from Adam to the Flood, which again is just 100 years deviant from the Hebrew original. Hence in no less than three cases, we find evidence that Josephus had been careful over his sums. It was others who muddied his chronological pool, to give us spurious results, and render his record suspect, and more or less unusable.
Now Josephus wrote his Antiquities in the latter part of the first century A.D. But the forger had copies of the Septuagint Greek Version of the Old Testament that had come down to him from the Jews who lived in Alexandria, and had translated from the Hebrew nearly 300 years before. Thus the Greek version, which had been the “Bible” of most intelligent Greek-speaking people, had accrued an authority of its own through those three centuries, and as most of them would not have been able to read Hebrew, they would assume that the translation was accurate, and the forger, being of that persuasion, had sought to change what he ascribed to Josephus as error, for readings that tallied with the Septuagint when new copies were written by the scribes of the day.
One might have thought that the forger, if he were an honest men, would have made sure that the Hebrew and Greek versions tallied before attempting to alter copies. But one can only conjecture that he either didn’t do his homework, or else that he had a hidden agenda to make the chronology fit a certain pattern. The latter of these possibilities is the more likely for a very cogent reason. Many students of chronology in those early times were Chiliasts. These were, according to the meaning of the word, interested in making important events fit a Millenary scheme. We shall have more to say about this contrivance as we proceed, but other matters are of greater importance at this moment in the investigation.
Notice that Josephus said that “those living noted down with great accuracy, births and deaths.” This was not the only occasion that Josephus made mention of the way in which all Hebrews were sticklers for accuracy in the preservation of documentary evidences. In writing his treatise “Against Apion” (Book 1.8) he said, concerning the Old Testament books, “No one has been so bold as either to add anything to them or take anything from them, or to make any change in them; but it becomes natural to all Jews, immediately and from their very birth, to esteem those books to contain divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and if occasion be, willingly to die for them.” It is inconceivable therefore to think that Josephus would tamper with the Hebrew of Genesis. Some modern scholars aver that the matter must be looked at the other way round, saying that the Septuagint versionwas the original, but that the Hebrew of Genesis was changed, but this is very unlikely in view of Josephus’s remarks.
There is further evidence to support our assertion that the Hebrew Bible is the original. Turning to Ant.1.6.5, we read about the post-diluvial patriarchs as follows – “I will now treat of the Hebrews; the son of Peleg, whose father was Eber, was Reu, whose son was Serug, to whom was born Nahor. His son was Terah, who was the father of Abraham, who accordingly was the tenth from Noah, and was born in the 292nd year after the Deluge, for Terah begat Abram in his 70th year.” He then proceeds to give a detailed chronological account of the birth of these patriarchs from Shem down to Terah, adding a century to each of seven members, and making the mistake of Arphaxad being born 12 years after the Flood instead of 2, so that the final tally is 993 years, not 292 years, from the Flood to the birth of Abram.
But the same investigative logic must be applied here, as before. Clearly the individual dates have been tampered with, but the total left unattended at 292. Yet again, we suggest carelessness on the part of the forger. No attempt has been made to change the original entry by Josephus, thus leaving a glaring error in the arithmetic. In terms of credibility, this renders the present copies of Josephus more or less useless as a means of determining the ancient chronology. However, the mistakes have rendered us a most useful tool in spying the work of the forger. Let it be said that there has never been a copy of the Hebrew of Genesis other than what is read today.
The next entry in the various chronological notices of Josephus is found in “Against Apion,” Book 1.8. It reads as follows. “We do not have an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, as the Greeks have, but only 22 books, which contain the records of all the past times, which are justly believed to be divine, and of them, five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of 3,000 years.”
Basing the calculation on Abram’s birth when Terah was 70, (which is contradicted by many, but was a stated fact by Josephus,) the date of Moses’ death, as reckoned from the Hebrew, is 2493 A.M. (where A.M. stands for Anno Mundi, or “the year of the world.”) But using what we now consider to be a forged record, the tally comes to 3794. If this value is the correct one, then Josephus should have told Apion that the “interval of time was little short of 4,000 years” rather than 3,000 years. Here again, we have evidence of the work of the forger, who simply could not be bothered to wade through all of Josephus’s writings to make sure that his work would pass muster on analysis.
To sum up, we believe that the original manuscript of Josephus contained the same chronological information as the Hebrew Bible. But the clear evidence of forgery now renders his record useless as an authoritative work. Sad as this is, it has also provided us with some useful information about the forger’s agenda. It could be that more than one hand has been at work in this work of revision. William Whiston, who translated Josephus from the Greek, had this to say. “It is but too evident, that not a few of Josephus’s numbers, both in his present Greek copies, and those of the old Latin versions, have been grossly corrupted since the days of Josephus.” He went on to say, as we have emphasised, “Josephus certainly reckoned almost 3,000 years, and no more, from the creation of Adam to the death of Moses. This is Josephus’s own express computation in all his present MSS. and printed copies, Greek and Latin, as well as in his last work, Against Apion, Book 1 sect.8.”