years of age. The ;ook of Jubilees also offers some support
to Augustine;s view as it suggests that the initial travel of
Abraham from Terah was for the purpose of finding a place
of settlement for the whole family, with the intention of
bringing Terah and Nahor into it:
“And if thou seest a land pleasant to thy eyes to
dwell in, then arise and take me to thee and take Lot
with thee, the son of Haran thy brother as thine own
son: the Lord be with thee. And Nahor thy brother
leave with me till thou returnest in peace, and we go
with thee all together.” 37
If that is close to a true account, the fact that Abraham
did not send for his family to join him suggests he had not
at that time settled. Unfortunately, Jubilees does not tell us
when Terah died, and the calling of Abraham included the
commitment to leave the rest of his family behind.
On a related point, the original text doesn;t actually say
directly that it was God who removed Abraham to Canaan,
even though some modern texts inform the reader that it
was. But, as noted, the text reads that after the death of his
father, “he removed him” [;;;;;;;;; ;;;;; / met;kisen
auton]. Who is this referring to? There are three persons in
this passage: God, Abraham and Terah, and there is some
uncertainty over the reference. Gill, for instance, points out
that some translators had different opinions. The Ethiopic
version, for instance, has “he removed himself”, implying
Abraham removed himself, while the Syriac version has it
as “God removed him”. 38 So, given this ambiguity one might
be able to make a case that the verse ought to be rendered
to imply that Abraham carried his father into the land after
his death and buried him there, and that that was the time
of settlement. The “he removed him” would not then be an
action between God and Abraham, but between Abraham
and Terah;s post-mortem body. However, the view that
Terah was buried in Canaan by Abraham does not appear
in Jewish commentaries, for instance Josephus, 39 and local
tradition holds that Terah is buried in Haran, both of which
undermine this secondary argument.
This paper has discussed a problem that arises with
Stephen;s speech, which is recorded by Luke in Acts 7: 4. For
those committed to biblical inerrancy the problem involves an
apparent anachronism that relates to the time of Terah;s death
with respect to Abraham;s departure to Canaan. Stephen
suggested Terah had died before Abraham left, while Terah;s
lifespan given in the MT indicates otherwise (Genesis 11: 26,
32). Several possible solutions have been discussed.
A few 18th-century Christian commentators followed
rabbinical thought in proposing that Terah died spiritually in
Haran, although it may be noted that the rabbis had different
motives than the Christian theologians. However, spiritual
death doesn;t seem to be indicated by a plain-sense reading
of the text of Acts 7: 4, and the likelihood is that Stephen and
Luke intended to imply Terah;s physical death. This position
is not argued for by more recent Christian commentators.
Ussher;s approach, which added 60 years to the birth of
Abraham, is at least numerically consistent with the MT,
but it is a novelty, and not supported by earlier Christian or
rabbinical thought and this potentially weakens its validity.
Other than Ussher;s novel approach, there are two main
feasible alternatives that deal with Terah;s physical death.
The more promising one is along the lines of Bruce;s
suggestion that there existed a textual recension that
correlated with the SP;s 145-year lifespan of Terah and
supported Philo;s commentary and Stephen;s assertion. In
support of this, several Dead Sea scroll scholars maintain
that the Qumran evidence points to the prior existence
of such a textual tradition in early first-century Judea.
Unfortunately, much of this recension has been lost, even
though some fragmentary evidence has appeared among
the Dead Sea scrolls that demonstrates correlation. At
present knowledge of such a recension is incomplete; further
research may well shed light upon it.
The other solution discussed here was outlined by
Augustine in the City of God. His argument holds that the
intent of the text is not to tell us when Abraham left Haran,
but when he settled in Canaan. This settlement occurred
following the purchase of land by Abraham in which to
bury his wife Sarah. It may be possible to make a case for
this from the meaning of the Greek word met;kisen, and
the text of Acts 7: 5, even though it is not firmly established
that this was Stephen;s intended meaning. Overall, Bruce;s
position seems to offer the strongest solution and may be
strengthened by further research into textual traditions that
existed in the second temple period.
1. From the Nestle-Aland 28th edn text, sourced from nestle-aland.com. This
verse is identical in the Textus Receptus, for instance the 1550 Editio Regia
of Robert Estienne (Stephanus) ;;;; ;;;;;;; ;; ;;; ;;;;;;;; ;;;;;;;;;
;; ;;;;;; ;;;;;;;; ;;;; ;; ;;;;;;;;; ;;; ;;;;;; ;;;;; ;;;;;;;;; ;;;;;
;;; ;;; ;;; ;;;;;; ;;; ;; ;;;;; ;;; ;;;;;;;;;;.
2. The LXX periods are from Rahlfs, A. and Hanhart, R. (Eds.), Septuaginta
(Editio Altera), Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 2007; Josephus,
Jewish Antiquities, translated by Thackeray, H.St.J., Books I–V, William
Heinemann and Harvard University Press, London & Cambridge, MA, 1. 6. 5,
pp. 73–75, 1966.
3. Ussher, J., The Annals of the World, translated by Pierce, L. and Pierce, M.,
Master Books, Green Forest, AR, pp. 22–23, 2003.
4. Bruce F.F., The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The
;ook of Acts, revised edition, Eerdsman, Grand Rapids, MI, pp. 134–135,
5. This has been sourced from sites.google.com/site/interlinearpentateuch/home,
and is based on Walton;s Polyglot of 1657.
6. Midrash Rabbah on Genesis (B’reshith Rabba), Transl. and edited by Rabbi
Freedman, H. and Simon, M., vol. 1. 39: 7–8, The Soncino Press, London,
pp. 314–315, 1939.
7. Augustine, City of God; in: Schaff, P. (Ed.), Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers
(NPNF), Series 1, vols. 1–8, T. and T. Clark, Edinburgh, UK, 1886–1890,
16: 15 & 16: 32.