Cainan - One or Two?

As you can see in the verses below, there are clearly two Cainans in the book of Luke.

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 3:35-38 (KJV)

This is the order in which they were born:

  1. Cainan - son of Enos
  2. Cainan - son of Arphaxad

The same genealogy above is also present in Genesis, and 1 Chronicles, but the second Cainan (son of Arphaxad) is missing there.

And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah.
- Genesis 11:12 (KJV)

Here we see that it was Arphaxad that begat Salah (or Sala in Greek). A similar verse to this is also found in 1 Chronicles.

So there's a gap it seems.


Gaps in genealogies are not necessarily a problem. For example, I can give the genealogy of Jesus as "Adam -> Noah -> Abraham -> David -> Jesus". Many intermediate steps are missing, but the genealogy is still correct. This concept is important to understand.

The Bible does it like this also:

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
- Matthew 1:1 (KJV)

Jesus wasn't the immediate son of David, but is nonethless counted as such.

Also, the word "begat" does not necessarily mean "fathered". It can also refer to someone in the same family line, e.g. a grandfather can be seen as a "father", and a grandson can be seen as a "son", etc.

So let's look at Genesis 11 again to see if we can fit Cainan into the genealogy.

And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah.
- Genesis 11:12 (KJV)

So let's put that into a timeline.

Relative age (from Arphaxad)Birth of

We only have 35 years to fit Cainan into this timeline.

Assuming people were mature at the age of 18, we might end up with something like this.

Relative age (from Arphaxad)Birth of

So, Arphaxad could have given birth to Cainan at age 18 (or thereabouts), and Cainan could have then given birth to Salah at age 18 (or thereabouts) as well. The only odd thing is that Cainan would have been a fairly young father in comaprison with some of the other people in this genealogy, e.g. most became fathers around 30-35 years of age.

The Bible doesn't say why Cainan was omitted from Genesis and 1 Chronicles.

There have been many attempts to explain this, but I only ever found one that makes sense to me.

Cainan may have been the firstborn son of Arphaxad who married at an early age. Cainan conceives Salah with his wife, but he dies before his son Selah is born. So Arphaxad, his father, adopts Salah and becomes his "father". Remember, the word "beget" does not necessarily mean direct father-son relationship.
- Source

So looking at Genesis 11 again:

And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah.
- Genesis 11:12 (KJV)

It could mean that Arphaxad became the "father" of Salah at age 35.

That could work.

The Septuagint

There's another explanation going around which I would like to share also.

Some have suggested that Luke would have gotten his genealogy from the Septuagint (the Hebrew Old Testament translated into the Greek). The Septuagint was sometimes also known as LXX (named after the 70 scholars that translated it). The Septuagint was quite common at that time.

The Septuagint does mention Cainan in Genesis.

And Arphaxad lived a hundred and thirty-five years, and begot Cainan.
- Genesis 11:12 (Septuagint, KJV)

It is technically possible that Luke, while writing the genealogy, used this exact same verse from the Septuagint.

There are many, many differences between the Masoretic Text (Hebrew), and the Septuagint Text (Hebrew translated into Greek). Thousands in fact. For example, did you notice that the year Cainan begat a son went up by 100 years? The same applies to Cainan's sons. They all went up by exactly 100 years. Now why would anyone wait 135 years before having children? That makes no sense right?

Here's a brief overview of when the second Cainan was mentioned.

Genesis1 Chronicles
Masoretic TextNoNo
Septuagint TextYesNo

Note that the Masoretic Text is consistent within the Old Testament, but that the Septuagint Text is not.

Some people have suggsted that because Luke was quoting from the Septuagint, that the Septuagint was therefore the real Bible, but that's very dangerous territory.

Others have suggested that the Septuagint is older, and is therefore more correct, but that's not true. The reason the Septuagint manuscripts are older, is because they weren't used as often, and therefore weren't replaced as often.

I only realized quite late that the Septuagint Text is in fact from Alexandria. A lot of modern-day Bibles use these manuscripts. It's important to realize that not every translation or version of the Bible is inspired.

I have come to the conclusion that there is absolutely no way that Jesus and the apostles were quoting from the Septuagint.

Luke, who was a doctor, knew what he was doing.

To learn more about the Septuagint, and why it's absolute rubbish, please click here.

Copy Error

Some have suggested that the second Cainan was simply an error by a scribe who was making a copy of the Bible at some point.

Style errors (typos, capitalization, etc) have definitely been made this way, but not normally doctrine errors.

It's also interesting that the second Cainan appears in most modern-day Bibles, as well as most of the Greek versions.

I checked a lot of different Bibles, and they all have the second Cainan.

I don't think it's a copy error.


It's a difficult study, but an important one, and it all comes down to how you see God preserving His words.

The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
- Psalms 12:6-7 (KJV)

And how scripture is inspired.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)

As far as English goes, the King James Bible stands alone.

So is the King James Bible wrong, or is it still 100% inspired?

Well, Luke 3 clearly says that there are two Cainans.