The death of Terah

The apparent conflict between Genesis 11:26 (Abram is born when Terah is 70), 11:32 (Terah dies at age 205), and 12:4 (Abram leaves Haran when Terah is 145 years old), and Stephen’s account in Acts 7:4 (κἀκεῖθεν μετὰ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ μετῴκισεν αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν γῆν ταύτην) is well documented. Like other seeming contradictions between the OT and the NT, it raises interesting questions about the way Second Temple Jews read the histories of their people.

One possibility that doesn’t seem to have received much attention in this case is that Stephen simply follows the order of the OT story as presented. The MT of Genesis 11:26–12:4 presents a narrative chronology that differs from the actual chronology (chronological rearrangement is common in OT histories): it places the call to Abram and his departure from Haran (12:1ff) after the death of Terah (11:32), though it also gives enough information for readers to reconstruct the actual chronology and understand that Abram must have left Haran well before Terah died. Is it possible, then, that Stephen in Acts 7 follows the narrative chronology rather than the actual one? If so, was his rhetorical/theological purpose similar to that of the MT text, e.g., to show “that God was directing and using Abraham, whatever the role of Terah in the movement of the family from Mesopotamia to Harran” (David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 272)?

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