One of his sources is a small papyrus scroll that he found in the tribal archives. It chronicles the 20 generations of patriarchs from Adam through Abraham. Atad is using it to compose the begat sections of his book.
In the ancient list, each patriarch has an entry that follows a set formula. For example:
Atad wanted to modernize the language, so he shortened had attained an age of 162 seasons to was 162 years old. He changed celebrated 800 feasts to lived 800 years. He also did the arithmetic, adding 162 years before Enochs birth plus 800 years afterwards to get a total lifespan of 962 years. The result looks like this:
When I saw what Atad had written, I was appalled. Someday the old parchment may disappear, all knowledge of it may be lost, and Atads rewrite may become the official version of our history.
I reminded him, The days of our years are but threescore years and ten. It is said:
However, I went on, you claim this patriarch lived almost a thousand years! Almost fiftyscore! Thats simply impossible.
I dont believe its impossible, he replied. It seems only appropriate that the great men of the past lived for a great span of time. Dont you agree? And the sacred texts cannot lie. There you see the numbers, written in ink.
I studied the old parchment for a few minutes. Then I announced, I have three objections. I disagree with all three time spans. In Jareds case, those are 162 years and 800 years and 962 years.
First, the scroll says that at fatherhood, Jared had attained an age of 162 seasons. Youve changed that to say he was 162 years old. What makes you think that 162 seasons equals 162 years?
What could it mean otherwise? Atad replied. How else do we measure a persons age, but by years?
Perhaps by weeks. We speak of a six-week-old baby. Or perhaps by seasons; you know, winter, spring, summer, fall. Ive heard that before Noahs Flood, a childs age was indeed counted by seasons. It was easier to say my son is one season old than my son is one quarter of one year old. And my mother used to repeat what her mother told her: After four seasons, a boy will walk. After six seasons, a boy will talk. And after ten seasons, a boy will walk and talk and make sense.
I never heard that, he said. Youre just making things up.
But I continued. Now in the case of Noah himself, the scroll seems to be confused about the facts. It says Noah was 500 seasons old, or 125 years, when his son Shem was born. It also says he was 500 seasons old when his son Ham was born, and again the same age when his son Japheth was born. It does not say the sons were triplets nor born of different mothers. Something is wrong here.
However, we know that Noahs Flood changed the world. The rainbow appeared as a sign there would never be another such deluge, with the promise:
Those famous words persuaded us that there are not four seasons in a year but only two, seedtime and harvest. Or summer and winter, if you will. After the Flood, a boy of 15 years who had lived 60 of the old antediluvian seasons was now considered to have lived only 30 of the new seasons.
Thats ridiculous, he scoffed.
I wasnt finished. Heres my second objection. The ancient scroll says that after his son was born, Jared celebrated 800 feasts, and youve changed that to say he lived 800 years. How can you do that? Dont you know about the feasts? When a boys firstborn arrived, the boy became a man, a father, a patriarch. Thereafter, as the head of his clan, it was his duty to offer the monthly sacrifice celebrating the feast of the new moon. There are 13 new moons in a year. A patriarch who had celebrated 800 feasts had been a father for almost 62 years.
Finally, I object to your arithmetic. Just as we cant add apples and oranges, you cant add seasons and feasts. And you certainly cant call the result years.
I worked on the numbers for about an hour and came up with these two tables.
TWO SEASONS PER YEAR
I noted, If we add up the ages of these 20 patriarchs when their successors were born, by my reckoning this table spans 512 actual years. But by your reckoning, its 1546 seasons, which you claim are years. So Adam lived more recently than your book of Genesis suggests a thousand years more recently!
Enoch reached only the age of 39, but thats because he didnt die. He vanished, and its said that God took him directly into heaven.
Some of the patriarchs did die young, three centuries later, when they were dwelling in Ur of the Chaldees. Conditions must have been bad there, because Peleg, Reu, and Serug perished in their early thirties, and Nahor survived only to the age of 24. He left a 9-year-old son named Terah. It was this Terah, once he became a man, who led the family out of Ur. They moved first to Harran and then to Canaan.
Finally, if we discount Noah because the numbers don't make sense, Methuselah still holds the record as the oldest patriarch. By my reckoning he died at 107. Thats an extremely old age, but unlike your 969 years at least its believable.
All very clever, Atad admitted. But it never has been my aim to make all of Genesis believable. Have you read the part about the talking snake?