The Internal Chronology of Noah’s Flood, Part 3: The J Source Chronology

For Part 1: An Overview, Click here.

For Part 2: The P Source Chronology, Click here.

Let’s now look at the J source chronology. As with the P source analysis, I will list only the verses relevant to the J chronology. Again, I will omit the two verses that Friedman assigns to P and take them up in the discussion of harmonization. Numbers in parentheses are the Genesis verse numbers.

The Internal Chronology of Noah’s Flood, Part 2: The P Source Chronology

For Part 1: An Overview, click here.

In Part 1, I noted that the story of Noah’s Flood combines two sources, which the scholars nicknamed J and P. I indicated that I would follow Richard Elliot Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible? to separate the sources but that I would challenge his assignment of two verses to the P source. It is my view that these two verses were inserted by the Redactor in order to harmonize the J and P sources into a single narrative. I’ll explore that issue in a subsequent post in this series.

Here, I am going to look at just the P chronology and ignore the two verses in question. For completeness, though, I’ll show where they appear in the sequence of P chronological verses so that you will know what I am leaving out. The first of the two verses is Genesis 7:24. “And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days. “ The second is Genesis 8:3. “and the waters gradually receded from the earth. At the end of one hundred fifty days the waters had abated;”

As I noted in the overview, all the other verses assigned to P follow a fixed date format, giving us the day, month and year in which the event happened. As to the J verses, the time frames are relative, telling us how many days passed from one event to the next. As you can see, the format of the two verses cited above more closely aligns with the J format than the P format. In what follows, I set out the P chronological sequence of events. Numbers in parentheses are the Genesis verse numbers. Verses not directly related to the P chronology are omitted.

The Internal Chronology of Noah’s Flood, Part 1: An Overview

Ask someone who is biblically literate how long Noah’s Flood lasted and the usual answer will be forty days and forty nights. But that is not quite right. The problem is that the Flood story consists of the intermingling of two different sources with different chronologies, tightly integrated by a subsequent redactor who may have made some additional changes. Scholars refer to these two sources as J (for Jahwist) and P (for Priestly). Unless otherwise indicated, I will rely on Richard Elliot Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible for the identification of J and P texts within the Genesis Flood account.

One problem is that the Flood story consists of three phases, rising water, receding water, and drying of the earth, and there appear to be inconsistencies between J and P as to how these three events unfold. Let’s look at an example of some of the problems that have to be solved.

Genesis 7:4 says, “For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights.” Note here only rain is the source of the flooding. This verse belongs to the J source.

Genesis 7:6 says the Flood occurred during Noah’s six hundredth year but remains vague as to when in the six hundredth year the rain started. Genesis 7:11 says that on the seventeenth day of the second month of Noah’s six hundredth year “the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened [emphasis added].” This verse belongs to P. Note here that the same day as the rain starts, there is both a downpour and the oceans burst open, a secondary source of the flooding.

Immediately after this last verse, Genesis 12–13 says, “The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah with his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons entered the ark [emphasis added].” This is a J passage. On what day did Noah and the family enter the ark? It could be argued that, given the narrative sequence, the family didn’t enter the ark until after the forty days of rain. But let’s put that issue aside. There are other problems.

The narrator is trying to give the impression that on the seventeenth day of the second month of Noah’s six hundredth year the rains started and Noah’s family entered the ark. Most scholars would probably agree that the J source flood story and the P source flood story commence at the same point in time. But is this the case?

The problem is when did Noah get the seven-day warning. If we add the seven-day warning to the forty days of rain in the J source and count from the first day of Noah’s six hundredth year, the elapsed time of 47 days falls on the seventeenth day of the second month of Noah’s six hundredth year, the same day that the P source sets as the start of its version of the flood story. (This would be true with solar or lunar calendars.)

So do we have one story where rain falls for forty days (J) and a separate story where rain falls and the oceans erupt on the same day (P) and did the redactor attempt to align them so that they started on the same day, or did he mean for the rains to fall for forty days, after which the oceans erupted and the rains continued beyond forty days?

There is no simple answer to this question and we have to do a deep dive into all of the chronological data in the Flood story to make sense out of the ways J and P interact. An important detail that helps us resolve the problem is that J and P use different time descriptions to move the story along.

J uses relative chronology and P uses fixed chronology. That is, in the J source, things happen after “D” number of days; in P, events happen precisely on specific dates, i.e., on day “D’ in month “M” in year “Y” thus and thus happened. In P you have to calculate to determine how many days elapsed between events and J tells you how many days elapsed between events. J, on the other hand, is not anchored to specific dates and P is anchored to specific dates. (Here, I would add that, in a couple of instances, Friedman assigns a couple of chronological references to the P source even though they have a J format. I will argue later that these references were added by the redactor in order to further the integration of the  two sources.)

Over the next few posts on this topic, I will be looking at the J chronology in isolation from P; the P chronology in isolation from J; and the integration of the two. The chronological data will lead to interesting indications that the authors of J and P relied on differing aspects of the Egyptian calendar system for framing their narratives.

My ASOR 2020 Annual Meeting Presentation

I am presenting a paper at the ASOR 2020 (virtual ) Annual Meeting titled “Noah’s Flood: Babylonian or Egyptian in Origin?” Almost all scholarship on the Genesis story of Noah’s Flood sees the origins of the story in some version of the Babylonian flood myths. These include some version of the Gilgamesh epic or an early ancestor to the Flood story contained within the Gilgamesh epic.

While there can be little doubt that some sort of literary connection exists between the Genesis version and some version of the Babylonian Flood traditions, scholars see this as the starting point for studying the story. In my paper I will be arguing that the story originates with Egyptian Creation myths. At a much later time, however, the original version of the story was redacted in order to harmonize it with the Gilgamesh epic.

Because the meeting is virtual, I will not be doing a live presentation. All presenters are submitting video versions of the paper that will be available to registrants for up to six months. However, members of my panel, Archaeology in Egypt, will all be available for an online live session to take questions and engage in discussions of the papers presented by the panel members. That session will be on November 20th, from 12:30 to 1:30.

Shortly after the live panel, I will add the paper to my Writings page on this blog (and perhaps make the video version available also.) In the meantime, over the next couple of weeks, I am planning a series of posts on the very problematic nature of the internal chronology of the Noah’s Flood story in Genesis, i.e., how long did the Flood last, what happened when in the course of the story, and what conclusions can we draw. There should be a few interesting revelations in the analysis.

KMT reviews Gensis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists

KMT magazine, a popular scholarly journal that covers ancient Egypt, published a review of my Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists. In the most positive portion, the reviewer wrote, “The numerous tables, where they deal with Egyptian king-lists . . . are excellent, highly informative, as also is his discussion of the same. These alone are worth the price of the book (emphasis added).” I take this as a tacit acknowledgment that the book deals well with the basics of mainstream Egyptian chronological studies.

Where we part company is over whether I have made the case that the numerous precise year-to-year alignments (none of which are cited in the review) between Genesis birth and death dates and the Egyptian High Chronology starting dates of every Egyptian dynasty down to the Eighteenth, as well as the starting dates for several major Egyptian kings and the beginning date of the Egyptian Sothic cycle constitute sufficient reason to believe that there is a relationship between the Genesis birth-death chronology and the Egyptian king-lists. Given the precise chronological alignments between the Genesis birth and death dates and the Egyptian dynastic dates, I am not sure what sort of additional evidence would be needed to make the case.

I have some other criticisms of the review, but I’ll let those pass for now.

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem: Chronological and Narrative Problems

The Triumphal Entry scene in the Gospels depicts a large crowd hailing Jesus as King of the Jews. From a political-historical standpoint, this is problematic. The Romans would not tolerate an unauthorized individual being hailed as the king of the Jews and would likely crack down on such a demonstration and take such a person into custody as soon as possible. The Romans simply didn’t tolerate such actions. However, Mark shows Jesus coming back to Jerusalem day after day with no Roman interaction, although the Romans would have had large numbers of troops stationed in and around Jerusalem during the Passover holiday period. From a literary standpoint, I also note that after Mark depicts Jesus being hailed by the large crowds as the Davidic Messiah that adulation disappears from Mark throughout Jesus’ return visits to Jerusalem. No one during the subsequent visits declares him to be the Davidic heir. Why not?

Release set for “Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists.”

Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists: The Egyptian Origins of Genesis History, Volume 1: Egypt’s Dynastic Period should be available for purchase sometime in the next couple of days, depending upon how quickly the distributor’s computer’s talk to Amazon’s computers. I expect the book to also appear on the Barnes and Noble site. As soon as I have links, I’ll post them.

I’ll be presenting a paper at the annual meeting of the American Research Center in Egypt

I’ll be presenting a paper titled Enoch and Sothis: Is there a link between Genesis chronology and Egyptian king-lists at the annual meeting of the American Research Center in Egypt. The conference will be held from April 12-14 in Alexandria Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C. My presentation will be at 12:45 PM on April 13th. For full details on the conference go here.

Read Chapter One of Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists

I was hoping to have my new book, Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists: The Egyptian Origins of Genesis History: Volume I, the Egyptian Dynastic Period, my follow up to The Moses Mystery, out during February. There has been a couple of minor production glitches and a February release is possible, but it might take another week or two. In the meantime, you can now read Chapter One: The Mystery of the Genesis “Begats.”

Teaser for “Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists”

Here’s some information about my next book, Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-Lists: The Egyptian Origins of Genesis History, Volume 1: Egypt’s Dynastic Period. Over the next couple of weeks, I will post a Table of Contents and readable access to the first chapter. So far, the release date is still set for no later than mid-February.

Revealed! the hidden links between
Genesis chronology and Egyptian history

The Book of Genesis  contains a 2,300-year chronology of Patriarchal births and deaths, from Adam to Joseph. Most biblical scholars believe the lists were fictional creations but Gary Greenberg, the provocative author of The Moses Mystery, says the birth and death dates contain a disguised but accurate chronology of Egypt’s dynastic history.

Based on a deep and thorough examination of the many problems in establishing an accurate Egyptian chronology, Greenberg makes a compelling case that an alignment of the Genesis birth-death chronology with the High Egyptian Chronology favored by many Egyptologists demonstrates  a precise one-to-one relationship between most Genesis birth and death dates and the starting years for Egypt’s first eighteen dynasties and many of its most important kings.

Some of the surprising discoveries in Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists

  • The patriarch Enoch lived 365 years, a puzzling solar reference from a lunar calendar culture. What very important astronomical and chronological event (utilized by Egyptologists) happened in the year he died?
  • The patriarch Methuselah lived for 969 years, the longest-lived person in the bible. What important Egyptian political period lasted 969 years and ended in the year Methuselah died?
  • The patriarch Eber’s birth and death dates coincide with the same years in which two of Egypt’s most important and celebrated political events occurred. Find out what they were.
  • The patriarch Peleg’s name means “divided.” What division occurred in Egypt in the year Peleg died? Which important Egyptian king ascended to the throne in the year Peleg was born?
  • The patriarch Joseph guided the Pharaoh to unprecedented political power in Egypt. What is the chronological and political correlation between Joseph’s rise to power and the Thutmosid kings?
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