Is Stephen's "75 Souls" a contradiction of Jewish Scriptures?

Why is Stephen's statement, "And Joseph sent and called Jacob his father and all his relatives, seventy-five souls" (Acts 7:14), considered a contradiction of the Jewish Scriptures? Let's find out.


There are three citations from the Jewish Scriptures with which we are concerned here: "All the souls of the house of Jacob that came into Egypt were seventy" (Genesis 46:27); "And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls" (Exodus 1:5); "Your fathers went down into Egypt with seventy persons" (Deuteronomy 10:22).

Each citation gives a reckoning of seventy individuals of the house of Jacob going down to Egypt. The Septuagint has the number seventy-five at Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5, but seventy at Deuteronomy 10:22. Christian Bible renderings of these citations follow the Masoretic text in all three instances.

It has been suggested that Stephen's numerical count was based on the Septuagint (or a similar version). Several Christian commentators have attempted to explain the numerical discrepancy by counting either additional children for Joseph or including the wives of the patriarchs. Perhaps other ways of understanding Stephen's count can be offered. All these efforts are irrelevant. The point is simply that in supposedly reiterating biblical history, Stephen contradicts the text used not only by Jews but by the church as well.


© Gerald Sigal