Did this man, named Kainan, exist? It’s a difficult question because his name is in some manuscripts, but not others. Further, his existence, or non-existence, will add or remove 130 years from Biblical chronology.
His name appears in the Greek Septuagint version of the genealogies of Genesis chapter 11, and in all Bible translations of the genealogies of Luke 3:36.
However, his name is entirely missing from the Hebrew Masoretic text.
So what’s going on? Did he exist, or not?
Well, there is either an error in the Hebrew text, which the Greek Septuagint does not share in Genesis, which Luke then repeated, or... the Greek Septuagint adds in an extra name by mistake in Genesis, which Luke then copied because he was using the Greek Septuagint as a reference.
So which is it? As Bible translators, we have to decide.
The editor has decided that our translation project will proceed with the assumption that Kainan probably did exist (although we will not be dogmatic about it). Why was this assumption chosen?
Firstly, in translating the Gospel of Luke we have gained an appreciation of Luke’s research and inspiration. So we have grown to trust his writings.
Secondly, at some point in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries CE, scribes made many deliberate, fraudulent, changes to the Genesis genealogies of the Hebrew text. This puts the Hebrew version of Genesis under great suspicion, and increases our trust in the Greek Septuagint version.
But why is Kainan missing from the Hebrew if he did, in fact, exist? Well, Hebrew scribes may have deleted Kainan because there was another man named Kainan listed in the line between Adam and Noah (at Genesis 5:12-13). Perhaps they thought that a previous scribe had accidentally duplicated the man, since both men fathered sons when they were 130 years old. However, they have different life-spans.
There were probably two men in the line that led to AbraHam that just happened to have the same name, and both happened to father their next important son at the same age (both obviously fathered many sons during their lifetimes), and this caused the confusion and the a later ‘correction.’
You may also be aware that this Kainan is not mentioned in the Greek Septuagint version of 1 Chronicles. However, this is because all of verses 18 to 23 are missing, and nearly all of verse 24, where Kainan would have appeared, is missing too. Also, the descriptions of the relationships of the line from Shem to AbraHam is missing, which we have added [in brackets].
So here is one case where the Greek Septuagint text suffered corruption. Therefore, we recommend that you defer to the genealogy in the Greek Septuagint version of Genesis chapter 11, and in the Luke chapter 3.