“one hundred and twenty” or “twenty cubits”?
2 Chronicles 3:4 Measurements of the house of the LORD built by king Solomon — “the height ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY” or “TWENTY CUBITS HIGH”?
2 Chronicles 3:4 - KJB - “And the porch that was in front of the house, the length of it was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the height was AN HUNDRED AND TWENTY; and he overlaid it within with pure gold.”
NIV (NET, Holman, Catholic St. Joseph NAB) - 2 Chronicles 3:4 - “The portico at the front of the temple was twenty cubits long, across the width of the building and TWENTY CUBITS HIGH. He overlaid the inside with pure gold.”
NIV Footnote: “SOME Septuagint and Syriac manuscripts; Hebrew A HUNDRED AND TWENTY.”
Dan Wallace and company, who have put together the Vatican Version Train Wreck called the NET version, reads “its height was 30 FEET.” Then he footnotes: “The Hebrew text has “one hundred and twenty cubits,”. An ancient Greek witness and the Syriac version read “twenty cubits,” i.e., 30 feet (9 m). It is likely that “a hundred” is a corruption of an original.”
Well, this “ancient Greek witness” is the Alexandrian copy of the so called Greek Septuagint, but the Vatican and Sinaitic copies and Brenton’s Septuagint all read “its height was ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY cubits”.
This text has bothered some commentators and the bible agnostic crowd (those who do not know for sure what God said in hundreds of places and who do not believe that any bible in any language is the complete and inerrant words of God) have claimed that the Hebrew texts are corrupt here.
But there IS a fairly easy way to explain what the 120 cubits height is referring to in this passage, and the Hebrew texts, as well as the King James Bible and most others, are NOT in error at all.
As many a Bible believer has stated, “the key is in the door”, and so it is in 2nd Chronicles chapter Three.
First of all, it is clear that the Hebrew Masoretic texts all tell us that the height of whatever it is that was being measured was 120 and not a mere 20. So too does the so called Greek Septuagint version.
Reading “and the height was ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY” are the following Bible translations: Wycliffe 1395, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587, the Douai-Rheims Version 1610, the KJB, Webster’s 1833, the Revised Version 1885, the ASV 1901, Darby 1898, Young’s 1898, Jewish Publication Society translation 1917, Amplified Bible 1987, the RSV 1946-1971, NKJV 1982, the NRSV 1989, The Word of Yah 1993, Complete Jewish Bible 1998, God’s First Truth 1999, the ESV 2001-2011, NASB 1995, Sacred Scriptures Family of Yah 2001, Judaica Press Tanach 2004, Online Interlinear 2010, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011, Conservative Bible 2011, Natural Israelite Bible 2012, Hebraic Roots Bible 2012, World English Bible 2012, International Standard Version 2014 and The Holy Bible, Modern English Version 2014 - “and the height was ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY, and he overlaid it within with pure gold.”
The Modern Greek Bible also reads “and the height was 120 - και υψος εκατον εικοσι· και εσκεπασεν αυτο εσωθεν με χρυσιον καθαρον.
And the Modern Hebrew Bible also reads “the height was 120” - והאולם אשר על פני הארך על פני רחב הבית אמות עשרים והגבה מאה ועשרים ויצפהו מפנימה זהב טהור׃
Vatican Versions that Reject the Hebrew Reading -
The modern Versions that reject the clear Hebrew reading of 120 and have 20 instead, or the 20 cubits converted to the English 30 feet, like Dan Wallace’s NET version does (and they are all Vatican Version Critical text translations) are the NIV, NET, Holman Standard 2003-2009, the Names of God Bible 2011, The Voice 2011, Common English Bible 2011 and the New Living Translation 2013.
The Catholic Connection
The Douai-Rheims bible of 1610 as well as the Douay Version of 1950 both followed the Hebrew texts and read “its height was ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY cubits.”
However now the St. Joseph New American Bible 1970 and the Catholic New Jerusalem bible of 1985 have changed this to read “its height was TWENTY cubits.”
Now for the explanation of why “and the height was AN HUNDRED AND TWENTY” is correct.
If you read closely several sections found here in 2nd Chronicles chapter three, what we see are numbers of measurements that include and refer to THE WHOLE of something taken together, rather than the individual parts.
In 2 Chronicles 3:11 we are told that the wings of the Cherubims “were TWENTY CUBITS long”. Yet the verse goes on to mention that each of the 4 individual wings was FIVE cubits long. Twenty cubits long is the measurement of all four wings stretched out and measured as a whole.
In 2 Chronicles 3:15 we are told that king Solomon made “two pillars of THIRTY AND FIVE CUBITS HIGH, and the chapter that was on the top of each of them was five cubits.” This is all the information we are given here.
Yet we can see from looking at 1 Kings 7:15 that “he cast two pillars of brass, of EIGHTEEN CUBITS HIGH APIECE”. Here we see that the number of 35 cubits high given to us in 2 Chronicles 3:15 is the total number of the combined height of BOTH pillars. And each one had a chapiter, or a top, that was placed on the upper end of each pillar, and was in all likelihood hollowed out maybe 9 or 10 inches to fit over the top of each pillar.
So when we look back at 2 Chronicles 3:4 what is being described as “and the height was AN HUNDRED AND TWENTY; and he overlaid it WITHIN with pure gold.” is referring to the total height of the four walls that made up the breadth and length of the house of the LORD.
And he overlaid it, (referring to the house), within with pure gold. In other words, each wall was about 30 cubits high, which would be about 45 feet tall.
And how exactly can we PROVE that this is so? Well, praise God, the answer is right there in 1 Kings 6:2 when we compare Scripture with Scripture. There we read: “And the house which king Solomon built for the LORD, the length thereof was threescore cubits (60), and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, AND THE HEIGHT THEREOF WAS THIRTY CUBITS.” 30 X 4 walls = 120 cubits total height. This is the total height of the four walls of the house.
The King James Bible is right, as always, and the fake bible versions like the NIV, NET, Holman Standard and the modern Catholic versions are not. It’s just that simple.
All of grace, believing The Book, the Authorized King James Holy Bible.
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Notes from the Internet -
There is an article on the web by what appears to be one of those weird Hebrew Roots Movements groups. They post an article where Josephus supposedly states that the height of the temple itself was 120 cubits. Yet this contradicts ALL Bible versions as well as the Hebrew texts that tell us the house of the Lord was only 30 cubits in height. See 1 Kings 6:2.
The site opens with this statement:
“The First Temple stood over 20 stories tall (120 cubits). Josephus, the Jewish historian with Roman citizenship, states that both the Main Temple and Porch were 120 cubits tall.”
Even the site that gives the alleged quotes from Josephus admit that a lot of this is speculation. The temple was built by Solomon around 586 B.C. and Josephus wasn’t alive till some 600 years later. There were no “blueprints” made or copies of what Solomon’s original house of the Lord looked like out side of the Bible. So how did a man living 600 years after the fact and never having seen it, come to the idea that the temple and house of the Lord was 120 cubits (180 feet) tall, when the Bible tells us very clearly that it was 30 cubits in height?
Josephus was a notoriously inaccurate historian. He has numerous places in his writings where he relates historic events that directly contradict the Biblical accounts. You can see several examples here.
Can Josephus be Trusted?
See especially this section where many of Josephus’s inaccuracies are enumerated.