Only nine steps were required to pass Adam's writings down to Moses. The minimum amount of person to person transmission steps that were required to pass along the source material from Adam from which Moses wrote the book of Genesis was smaller than appeared obvious. The amount of times that the records were transmitted from person to person, from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Moses, that are part of the source material from which Moses wrote the book of Genesis was much smaller than many think.
Adam and his early descendants had very bright minds.
Adam was created with language skills already built in. This was evident because Adam could understand the words and the meaning of the words when God gave directions to him in Genesis 2:16-17. That Adam had the capacity to quickly learn to write was equally certain since his eighth generation descendants worked in tent making, animal husbandry, musical instruments, and metalwork.
These were documented in Genesis 4:1-24. Adam (1st generation from God), to Cain (2nd gen.), to Enoch (3rd gen.), to Irad (4th gen.), to Mehujael (5th gen.), to Methusael (6th gen.), to Lamech (7th gen.) with two wives: by Adah to Jabal (8th gen., the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle, 4:20) and to Jubal (8th gen., the father of all such as handle the harp and organ); by Zillah to Tubalcain (8th gen., an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron).
Two steps transmitting early material reached to Noah.
In Genesis 4:25-26 another chain of descendents began: Adam, to Seth (2nd gen.), to Enos (3rd gen.), Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, and Lamech leading to Noah (10th generation). The grandson of Adam named Enos lived for eighty four years after Noah was born. His son Cainan lived for eighty years after Noah’s birth and Mahalaleel lived for 234 more years after Noah was born. These early generations could have participated in the record keeping started by Adam. (Genesis 5:3-29)
One or more documents contained the original information about the ex nihilo creation of the cosmos and earth’s contents including the created diversity of fixed kinds of plants and animals. This recorded material would have included the account of the creation of man, the stewardship placed into his hands, the formation of woman as his helper (who later became mother to all of humanity), the temptation and choice of sin, the pronouncement and execution of the penalty for rebellion, and the significant promise to help man that God had made. (Genesis chapters 1–3)
When each generation was quite aged they in turn passed their records onward to members of their branching families of descendants. This process would have made the transmission pass from generation to generation nine times to reach Noah. Of course, the list of ancestral lineage (and number of generations) depended upon the genealogical branch under which any recipient came by birth. The Biblical individuals named in this document were placed in successive rows in a spreadsheet time line to verify the overlap of contemporary individuals. This also showed that the recipients were of a responsible age of forty or more years to receive the source material to maintain the integrity of document transmission.
Noah in the tenth generation had many years in which to go to Adam and Eve’s grandson Enos to verify the transmission of the early information of God’s words to Adam and Eve. Since Enos had 695 years contemporaneous with Adam he had many years and opportunities in which to confirm the information passed to him by his own father or grandfather. The transmission process certainly could have been longer by passing through each individual generation, but not necessarily so.
If Noah went and verified the transmitted material in his possession with Enos that was effectively the same result as getting the written material directly from Enos. Thus only two person to person transmissions of the early Genesis information were necessary, for example: Adam to Enos and Enos to Noah. [Other pathways of two or more steps would have been through the pre-flood fathers listed above.]
When Noah and his three sons entered the ark they possessed the history of their progenitors and knew the ages at which each son was born to their father. This record gave us the definitive length of time from Adam’s creation until the year of the flood. [130 + 105 + 90 + 70 + 65 + 162 + 65 + 187 + 182 + 600 = 1656] That was 1,656 years with the flood starting when Noah was 600 years old (Genesis 7:6-11), or more exactly 600 years two months and sixteen days old as written.
It was quite plain that only two transfers of material were necessary to reach across 1,656 years up to the great world-wide flood. That is hard to fathom or “wrap our head around” in our era where life spans are generally from 60 to 100 years. Yet we can have great confidence in the integrity of the written material Noah possessed and transferred to his son’s before his death 350 years later at age 950. That meant 2,006 years [1,656 + 350 = 2006] of human history only needed just three direct transfers of written materials started by Adam to be received by Japhtheh, Shem and Ham and then passed on again in turn by them.
One more step reached to Abram
For Shem that was 152 more years until his death. [2006 + 152 = 2157] Since both his son Arphaxad and his grandson Salah died before Shem died the next likely person in his lineage to pass the materials to was Eber. And Eber died four years after Abraham died.
Abram’s father Terah lived his whole lifetime of 205 years contemporaneous with Shem, Arphaxad, Salah, and with Eber. Shem died when Abraham was at age 150. This pathway from Shem to Terah and from Terah to Abram required two transfers of early Biblical material. But only one transfer was really necessary to go directly from Shem to Abram since Abram was born when Shem was at age 450 with 150 more years to live.
Let's add this together: two person to person transfers of copies of the original source material from Adam and the early patriarchs up to the great flood, one transfer to Shem after the flood, and only one more transfer was necessary to reach to Abram while he was still in Ur of the Chaldees before he journeyed to Canaan. That made the bare minimum of four transfers of essential early Biblical material to reach to the end of Abraham’s life at age 175.
Start with 1,656 years up to the flood. Abraham died 527 years after the flood. That made 1,656 + 527 = 2,183 years at his death. [Adam at 130 (to Seth’s birth) + 105 (to Enos) + 90 (to Cainan) + 70 (to Mahalaleel) + 65 (to Jared) + 162 (to Enoch) + 65 (to Methuselah) + 187 (to Lamech) + 182 (to Noah’s birth) + 502 (to Shem) + 100 (to Arphaxad) + 35 (to Salah) + 30 (to Eber) + 34 (to Peleg) + 30 (to Reu) + 32 (to Serug) + 30 (to Nahor) + 29 (to Terah) + 130 (to Abram’s birth) + 175 years at death = 2,183 years.] Thus there were 2,183 years into human history before the fifth person to person transfer was necessary at the end of Abraham’s life.
Several steps from Isaac to Moses
Only five direct transfers of copies of the original material from Adam would have reached across 2,183 years unto Isaac’s possession of them. Noting that Isaac was born when Abraham was age 100 and lived for 180 years, Isaac lived for 105 more years past Abraham. [2,183 + 105 = 2,288] There was 2,288 years of human history from creation until Isaac transferred this material to Jacob (also known as Israel) when his son Jacob was at age 120. That made the sixth person to person transfer under these ideal conditions.
Jacob died twenty seven years later at age 147 years [2,288 + 27 = 2315]. Ten years after Isaac died Jacob had entered Egypt at age 130 (Genesis 47:9). Jacob lived seventeen more years in Egypt until he transferred his materials to his twelve sons, possibly making the seventh transfer with each son receiving a copy. Jacob’s son Levi in turn fathered Kohath and Kohath fathered Amram who in turn fathered Miriam, Aaron, and Moses. Amram lived perhaps fifty or more years contemporaneous with Levi (possibly the eighth transfer) and in turn passed these materials unto his oldest son Aaron (ninth transfer). Aaron then shared them with his brother Moses during the forty years in the wilderness journey which was from 2513 to 2553 years from creation.
From Adam to the generation of Aaron and Moses only nine person to person transfers were necessary for Moses to access copies of the source materials from Adam. From these copies and the additional records of succeeding generations Moses authored the completed book of Genesis (which made the tenth potential transmission when passed to fellow Israelites). Of course there could have been more of these transfers in the middle of this twenty-five century journey. But only nine specific transmission steps were necessary to functionally reach the 26th generation from Adam (counting Adam as the first generation by direct creation from God).
How long any single manuscript lasted was variable based upon the quality of materials used for each document. It was obvious that hand-written copies were prudently made with durable materials to insure that the next manuscript would last for another long period of time since it was laborious to make each copy. This process was not given or really known from this early time period.
One method to insure the integrity of document transmission would be to make a carefully written copy of document A and call it document B. When B was verified to be accurate then set aside document A for a reference source. When document B was somewhat aged make a copy of document B and call it document C. Then carefully take out document A and use it to verify the integrity of document C. In turn take document B and carefully set it aside for a reference source for when document D was made. This ongoing process would have three generations of transcribed documents at the same time before the earliest document could be destroyed due to its frailty. This procedure would insure the chain of accuracy or integrity of textual material copied from one generation of each document to another generation of that same document.
Moses was specially educated and prepared
Something not often considered in this larger overview was that Moses was described by the prophet Stephen in Acts 7:22, “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.” Moses was able to learn much about early world history from the records that came down through Ham and his lineage that formed the Egyptian culture. Even now some of those pieces of information remain embedded in the hieroglyphics and refer back to Adam and Eve as well as Noah and his wife.
Moses knew a great amount about two chains of historical records. The Egyptian history available to Moses had recorded some truths about the creator, early human history, the flood, the Babel account, and the subsequent dispersion into Egypt. It also included the account of Joseph, his lineage, and service to Egypt.
The Egyptian chain of history validated the things he had learned from his parents and their family records. This large body of knowledge, “all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” supported Moses’ choice to visit his brethren. Moses’ decision to align himself with his birth lineage “when he was full forty years old” (Acts 7:23) had significant underlying truth and reasoning behind it. “For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them” (Acts 7:25), perhaps somewhat like God had done through the prior leadership of Joseph.
What then prompted Moses to make a distinct movement toward God and the descendants of Israel when he was at age forty? Probably it had several parts: the historical information of Egypt which Moses had carefully analyzed, the comparison to his knowledge about his family lineage and their records, and the emotional impetus from learning that his natural mother, and perhaps his father, had just died. “And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens” (Exodus 2:11). Or as Acts 7:23 said, “when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.” At age forty Moses saw them as his own people, “his brethren.” “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” (Hebrews 11:24-25)
This Moses who “was mighty in words” was carefully prepared by his education and training to be able to compile the book we know as Genesis from the early records passed down and available to his generation, the 26th generation. The minimum amount of person to person transmission steps that were required to pass along the original source material of Adam from which Moses wrote the book of Genesis was significantly smaller than appeared obvious. Moses used this ancient source material obtained through Abraham's descendants to write the early part of the book of Genesis. This material was verifiable by other records available at that time period.
Moses' work is affirmed
In the New Testament Jesus was recorded as quoting from and/or applying the truths of that very compilation by Moses in four places. 1) Jesus cited Moses in Mark 10:6, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.” 2) Jesus quoted and applied Moses’ words in Matthew 19:4-6 by saying, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” 3) Jesus applied Moses’ words in John 8:44 saying, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” 4) One more time Jesus reinforced the integrity of Moses in writing Genesis saying in John 5:45-47, “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”
We can surely trust the transmission of the original source material from Adam and the early patriarchs. We can wholeheartedly rely on the integrity of the material from which Moses wrote the book of Genesis. Our Lord Jesus affirmed we must embrace God’s guidance of Moses’ work and believe his writings. Adam’s records were faithfully conveyed down to the generation of Aaron and Moses by nine or more steps.