DOES ACTS 7:14 HAVE A MISTAKE?
by Shawn Brasseaux
In Acts 7:14, the Prophet Stephen preaches: “Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.” A “score” is 20, so “threescore and fifteen” totals 75. You may not realize it, friend, but this forms the heart of a centuries-old debate amongst textual critics (Bible correctors).
The Old Testament record calculates 70:
- “And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten” (Genesis 46:27).
- “And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already” (Exodus 1:5).
- “Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the LORD thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude” (Deuteronomy 10:22).
How do we reconcile Stephen’s reckoning with that of Moses? Was it 70 or 75? One method—the easiest and laziest!—is to hold to the 70 of Moses as factual and dismiss the 75 of Acts 7:14 as nothing but a “scribal error.” This is unbelief rather than faith. We have a serious problem if we claim to be “Bible believers” but are willing to renounce it where it has “mistakes!” Another “scholarly” way people have handled this textual difficulty is by appealing to the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament supposedly written a few centuries before Christ. The Septuagint adds five names to the family tree in Genesis 46:20. As with the other route, this too is doubt not faith.
First, notice Genesis 46:20 in the King James Bible (and its underlying Hebrew Masoretic Text): “And unto Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.” You will recall verse 27: “And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.” The Bible says 70.
Now, based on the genealogy listed in 1 Chronicles chapter 7, the editors of the Septuagint cleverly altered Genesis 46:20 so it reads this way: “And there were sons born to Joseph in the land of Egypt, whom Aseneth, the daughter of Petephres, priest of Heliopolis, bore to him, Manasses and Ephraim. And there were sons born to Manasses, which the Syrian concubine bore to him, Machir. And Machir begot Galaad. And the sons of Ephraim, the brother of Manasses; Sutalaam, and Taam. And the sons of Sutalaam; Edom.” Did you see how the (Greek) Septuagint modifies the Hebrew Bible here? Five names have been added—one son of Manasseh (Machir), two sons of Ephraim (Sutalaam and Taam), and one grandson of both Manasseh (Galaad) and Ephraim (Edom). Now, the “revised” total of verse 27: “And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in the land of Egypt, were nine souls; all the souls of the house of Jacob who came with Joseph into Egypt, were seventy-five souls.” Verse 27 has been forced to match Stephen’s words (75 people; Acts 7:14).
As opposed to trusting the “new” Old Testament as found in the Septuagint—which contains the Apocryphal Books as though they are inspired of God—here is how we think we should approach this matter from a Bible-believing (not Bible-correcting or Bible-corrupting) standpoint.
Genesis 46:26-27 says: “ All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six;  And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.” Scripture is clear 66 came with Jacob into Egypt. Joseph and his two sons (Ephraim and Manasseh) were already living in Egypt, bringing the number up to 69. Jacob himself would be the 70th person of “the house of Jacob” (verse 27).
In Acts 7:14, Stephen says the number of Jacob’s “kindred” were 75. Genesis 46:26 leads us to conclude the higher number incorporates Jacob’s daughters-in-law (his sons’ wives). The number 75 would have been even greater, but some members of Jacob’s family perished in Canaan before the household migrated into Egypt. For example, Er and On—grandsons of Jacob through his son Judah—expired in Canaan (Genesis 46:12). Also, Rachel, one of Jacob’s four wives, died in Canaan while giving birth to Benjamin. Neither did Rachel accompany them into Egypt (Genesis 35:19).
If we will correct the Hebrew Bible using the Septuagint (LXX), attempting to harmonize it with Stephen’s words in Acts 7:14, we have introduced confusion that would have otherwise not occurred! The extra five names in Genesis 46:20 of the LXX increases the number to 80, so we would then have to alter Acts 7:14 from 75 to 80. (And that would be an error!!) Again, relying on the Septuagint’s “dependability” is hopeless here—and, if we cling to it, we will surely fall to our doctrinal demise!! It only complicates an already difficult matter.
Contrary to popular belief, Acts 7:14 is not a “scribal error.” Stephen’s number 75 is appropriate because it tallies Jacob’s daughters-in-law, whereas Moses’ number 70 of Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5, and Deuteronomy 10:22 excludes them (cf. Genesis 46:26). Friend, retain and believe the King James Bible’s readings, and you will not be confused—here, or any other passage.