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by Jared L. Olar

In the third chapter of the King James Version's translation of the Gospel according to St. Luke, the genealogy of the patriarch Abraham is traced back to the first man Adam in this way: ``. . . Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor, which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala, which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech, which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.'' (Luke 3:34-38)

By consulting the KJV's translation of the Old Testament, we find that this genealogy in Luke 3 almost perfectly matches the genealogies found in the fifth, tenth, and eleventh chapters of Genesis and the first chapter of I Chronicles. There is just one discrepancy: St. Luke's ``Cainan, son of Arphaxad,'' does not appear in the KJV Old Testament. The antediluvian patriarch ``Cainan, son of Enos,'' appears in Gen. 5:9-14 and I Chron. 1:2. Following St. Luke's genealogy, we would expect the second Cainan, son of Arphaxad, to appear in Gen. 10:24; 11:12-13 and I Chron. 1:18, 24 in the KJV, but he is not there.

What accounts for this discrepancy? Does Luke 3:36 have a name that doesn't belong, or did the genealogies of the KJV Old Testament leave a name out for some reason?

The KJV Old Testament is a translation that was based on the Hebrew Masoretic and the Latin Vulgate texts. The Latin Vulgate was itself originally based on a Hebrew text that was close in many ways to the Masoretic family of texts. Because Cainan, son of Arphaxad, is absent from the Vulgate and Masoretic texts of the Old Testament, he naturally does not appear in the KJV Old Testament. Even more, the second Cainan is also omitted by the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Christian historian Eusebius in the fourth century A.D, the Christian historian Africanus in the third century A.D., the Jewish historian Josephus in the late first century A.D., and the Jewish philosopher Philo in the early first century A.D.

However, Cainan does appear in the Greek Septuagint translation of Genesis:

``Sons of Sem: Elam, and Assur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram, and Cainan . . . . And Arphaxad begot Cainan, and Cainan begot Sala. And Sala begot Heber . . . . And Arphaxad lived a hundred and thirty-five years, and begot Cainan. And Arphaxad lived after he had begotten Cainan, four hundred years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Cainan lived a hundred and thirty years and begot Sala; and Cainan lived after he had begotten Sala, three hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters, and died.'' (Gen. 10:22, 24; 11:12-13)

Although many Greek Septuagint manuscripts of I Chronicles omit the second Cainan, many Septuagint copies show the following:

``And Arphaxad begot Cainan, and Cainan begot Sala, and Sala begot Heber . . . . Sem, Arphaxad, Cainan, Sala, . . . .'' (I Chron. 1:18, 24)

The Jewish historian Demetrius, who lived in the 200s B.C. around the same time that the Septuagint translation was beginning to be prepared, also included the second Cainan. The writings of Demetrius are lost, but some of his statements were preserved by Alexander Polyhistor, who lived around the time that Christ was born. Like Demetrius, Polyhistor also included the second Cainan.

Besides the evidence from Demetrius and Polyhistor, we also have the Book of Jubilees, written perhaps about 100 B.C. In Jubilees 8:1-6, it says:

``In the 29th jubilee, in the first week, in the beginning thereof, Arpachshad took to himself a wife and her name was Rasueja, the daughter of Susan, the daughter of Elam, and she bare him a son in the third year in this week, and he called his name Kainam. And the son grew, and his father taught him writing, and he went to seek for himself a place where he might seize for himself a city. And he found a writing which former (generations) had carved on the rock, and he read what was thereon, and he transcribed it and sinned owing to it; for it contained the teaching of the Watchers in accordance with which they used to observe the omens of the sun and moon and stars in all the signs of heaven. And he wrote it down and said nothing regarding it; for he was afraid to speak to Noah about it lest he should be angry with him on account of it. And in the 30th jubilee, in the second week, in the first year thereof, he took to himself a wife, and her name was Melka, the daughter of Madai, the son of Japheth, and in the fourth year he begat a son, and called his name Shelah . . . .''

The Book of Jubilees is a greatly expanded and rewritten version of Genesis and Exodus written in the latter 100's B.C. Fifteen fragments of the original Hebrew version of the Book of Jubilees have been recovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls. As we see, the second Cainan must have been in the copy of Genesis used by the author of the Book of Jubilees. (Note that while the Septuagint says Cainan was 130 years old when he begot Salah, Jubilees says Cainan was only 57 years old.)

It is clear, then, that the second Cainan was known to Jewish writers as early as the 200s B.C., while it is only with Philo Judaeus in the early first century A.D. that we have evidence of the absence of this name from Abraham's genealogy. What is likely to have happened is that at some point between 200 B.C. and the birth of Christ, a scribe must have accidentally skipped over the second Cainan in Gen. 11, thus creating a family or tradition of manuscript copies that left him out. In time, scribes who were confused by the second Cainan's absence from Gen. 11 but presence in Gen. 10 and I Chron. 1 would have begun to ``correct'' their copies by deleting him from Gen. 10 and I Chron. 1. This would explain why the Septuagint, Demetrius, Polyhistor, and Jubilees include the second Cainan, while Philo, Josephus, Africanus, the Vulgate, and the Masoretic omit him. Because St. Luke followed the Septuagint, his genealogy includes the second Cainan.

However, others claim that the second Cainan did not originally appear in the Old Testament, but was interpolated at some point. While not impossible, no one has ever been able to come up with a satisfactory reason for the addition of a generation to Abraham's genealogy-while an accidental omission of part of Gen. 11, followed by later harmonising deletions, is quite plausible and understandable. Some who argue that the second Cainan is spurious have pointed out that his presence in Abraham's genealogy supposedly destroys the numerical symmetry of the genealogical lists in Gen. 5, Gen. 11, and Ex. 6. Without the second Cainan, there are ten generations inclusive from Adam to Noah, ten generations inclusive from Shem to Abraham, and seven generations inclusive from Abraham to Moses. The Jews have long viewed the numbers 10 and 7 as particularly significant. With the second Cainan, there would be eleven generations inclusive from Shem to Abraham.

But the argument from numerical symmetry is a two-edged sword. Besides the numbers 10 and 7, the Jews also regard 3 and 22 as significant. What we find in Gen. 5 are indeed ten generations, but the tenth generation (Noah) had three notable sons (Shem, Ham, Japheth). With the second Cainan, what we find in Gen. 11 are ten generations just as before, with the tenth generation (Terah) again having three notable sons (Abraham, Haran, Nahor). That gives us a total of 22 generations inclusive from Adam to Abraham-the same number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet and number of scrolls in the Hebrew canon of scripture. Also, from Adam to Moses would be 28 generations inclusive, and 28 is a multiple of 7. Without the second Cainan, all of this numerical symmetry is lost.

Furthermore, the genealogy in Luke 3 has exactly 77 names inclusive from Jesus Christ to God. Without the second Cainan, there would be only 76 names. Jews would naturally see 77 as symbolic or significant-especially when associated with the genealogy of the Messiah-but wouldn't necessarily see the number 76 in the same way.

Of course, a few important manuscripts of St. Luke's Gospel have 78 generations from Jesus Christ to God, but that version of the genealogy is manifestly corrupt and garbled, showing a sequence of names in Luke 3:32-33-``Naasson, son of Aminadab, son of Admin, son of Arni, son of Esron''-where most manuscripts accurately show ``Naasson, son of Aminadab, son of Aram, son of Esron'' (cf. Ruth 4:18-22; I Chron. 2:9-15). ``Admin'' is simply a doublet of ``Aminadab,'' while ``Arni'' is a misspelling of ``Aram'' or Ram.

Almost all Greek manuscripts of St. Luke's Gospel include the second Cainan. However, one early uncial manuscript of St. Luke's Gospel-the extremely idiosyncratic Codex Bezae-and a few later cursive manuscripts omit him. The most likely explanation for the second Cainan's absence from those manuscripts is simply scribal error, though it's possible the second Cainan was deliberately removed because of awareness that he was absent from the Vulgate and the proto-Masoretic texts of the Old Testament. In any event, the weight of manuscript evidence makes it impossible to avoid the conclusion that the second Cainan is an original, authentic reading in St. Luke's Gospel.

We see, then, that the weight of the evidence points to the conclusion that the second Cainan was an original and authentic part of Genesis and I Chronicles. Though it dropped out of the Hebrew text before the birth of Christ, the Greek Septuagint fortunately preserved this generation of Abraham's pedigree.


  1. Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton, The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English, Hendrickson Publishers, 1851, 2001, pp. 12-13, 530, 1134.  
  2. R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament-in English, Oxford University Press, Ely House, London, 1913, 1968, vol. II, p.25.
  3. Henry Fynes Clinton, Fasti Hellenici-the Civil and Literary Chronology of Greece from the Earliest Accounts to the LVth. Olympiad, Burt Franklin, New York, vol. I, 1834, 1965, pp. 288-289.
  4. Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek, with an introduction by Philip Schaff, Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, New York, 1891, pp. xxvii-xxviii, 124-125.



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