Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Nephilim

6 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown (Gen 6:1-4).
According to one commentator, 
What is entirely unnatural is the attraction these fair creatures held for the sons of God and the resultant marriages and births of superhuman warriors, the Nephilim. Interpreters have made every effort to explain this text in some way other than the plain and obvious meaning of the words before us. Such interpretive efforts have included theories of human marriages between the faithful Sethites and the wicked Cainites, or dynastic rules and their polygamous marriages and ruthless offspring, or otherwise demonic and/or angelic interpretations. However, the clear sense of the text is simply that of preternatural beings (i.e., not entirely supernatural creatures but certainly not wholly natural either) fathering semi-human offspring of great exceptional military strength, and perhaps of great stature. Such divine-human unions are attested in other cultures of the world, including Babylonian, Egyptian, Ugaritic, Hittite, and Greek. The Gilgamesh Epic attributes Gilgamesh's prodigious energy and power to his parentage, and the fact that he is two-thirds divine (Arnold 2009).
This is a useful foil. I'll use his set-up to contrast his interpretation with my own.
1) That's easy for Arnold to say. Given his liberal view of Scripture, it doesn't cost him anything to impute to Scripture an interpretation which he considers factually false or even preposterous. But for Christians who take the authority of Scripture seriously, we can't be so cavalier. Of course, Arnold pays a price. He just doesn't know it, given his compartmentalized faith.
2) It's antecedently unlikely that the narrator would suddenly endorse pagan mythology, given his polemical theology–which often skewers pagan mythology. 
3) If you use something like the Epic of Gilgamesh or Hesiod's Theogony as your frame of reference, then, of course, Gen 6:1-4 is mythological. But that's a reference frame you're bringing to the text, not reference frame you're getting from the text. That interpretation is the artifact of what you read into the text, not what you read out of the text.
4) Moreover, v2 isn't even consistent with Arnold's pagan comparisons. In that literature, high gods and low gods don't marry women. Rather, they seize them by force, then dump them. 
5) The fallen angelic interpretation is just as extraordinary as the mythological interpretation. So why would that avoid the "plain and obvious" sense of the text? It's not like that's a rationalistic or naturalistic interpretation. 
6) Notice the implicit premises in Arnold's argument:
i) The bene ha elohim are low gods.
ii) The Nephilim are demigods sired by low gods. 
But syllogism is dubious:
7) First of all, there's the identity of the bene ha elohim
i) This is the only occurrence of that phrase in the Pentateuch. So, frankly, we're at a loss to know for sure what the narrator meant by that. Commentators turn to Job and the Psalms for linguistic parallels. But is that reliable? Job's Hebrew is idiosyncratic. And the Psalms are poetic. 
ii) In the OT, "son" can be used abstractly or figuratively, viz. "sons of Belial" (Deut 13:13), "sons of valor" (Judg 18:2), "sons of fire" (Job 5:7), "son of the dawn" (Isa 14:12).
8) Conversely, elohim can sometimes be used as an adjective as well as a noun. Indeed, it's striking that commentators who render bene ha elohim in Gen 6:2 as "divine beings" are also inclined to render ruach elohim in Gen 1:2 as "awesome wind," or el gibbor in Isa 9:6 as "great hero." They translate the terminology down when they wish to demote orthodox interpretations, and translate the terminology up when they wish to promote heterodox interpretations. 
9) It's unclear from the syntax if the Nephilim are offspring of these unions. They could be contemporaries of the "sons of God(s)." 
10) Moreover, Arnold is using Num 13:33 to gloss the Nephilim in Gen 6:4. But that identification is dubious. For one thing, the Nephilim in 6:4 would perish in the flood. Since the Pentateuch is a literary unit, with the same narrator, their postdiluvian survival would be inconsistent with his storyline.
11) Furthermore, the description of the Nephilim in Num 13:33 comes from the spies who are looking for an excuse to retreat. So their description is hyperbolic. 
12) There's also the question of whether this pericope goes with the preceding genealogy or the succeeding flood account. If it goes with the genealogy, then there's less reason to think anything extraordinary is in view.
13) For many scholars, "mythical" is a synonym for whatever they deem to be impossible or unbelievable. "Mythical" is the measure of their secular education and experience. If nothing out of the ordinary has ever happened to them, then anything miraculous or paranormal is "mythical." 
14) There's nothing prima facie mythical about "heroes of old" or "men of renown." That hardly selects for demigods. 
To me, that suggests someone like Nimrod (Gen 10:8-12). Indeed, both passages employ the same designation (gibbor [10:8-9]; gibborim [6:4]). Of course he's postdiluvial, but he's the type of individual that 6:4 is referring to. Explorers. Conquerors. Warrior-kings. Founders of ancient empires. 
In a sense, Arnold is half-right. It's a familiar theme. But Arnold has the order wrong. Historical figures can morph into legendary figures, then mythical figures. Ambitious, ruthless, adventurous young men who are bent on conquering the world. Making a deathless name for themselves. 
A modern counterpart would be the Conquistadors. In relation to the New World (i.e. Latin America), they were the "heroes of old." Don't let the positive connotations of the English word "hero" throw you. It doesn't mean the good guy. It means heroic. Rapacious men can do heroic deeds. 
15) This, in turn, might throw light on the "sons of God(s)." Let's assume (ex hypothesi) that the "sons of God(s)" fathered the "heroes of old." 
If a son has a famous father, the son is known in association with his well-known father. Likewise, if your father is a king, that makes you a prince. You are born into a socially high status (unless you're the bastard son of a royal mistress).
But it can work in reverse. A famous son will retroactively elevate the social status of his father. No one would remember who Jesse was if his son hadn't been a great king of Israel. 
Assuming that the "sons of God(s)" in 6:2 are fathers of the "heroes of old" in 6:4, they might come by that honorific title after the fact. They could be ordinary men who fathered extraordinary sons. Sons whose fame confers status on their fathers. 
The prediluvian world was waiting to be explored and colonized. An opportunity for prediluvian counterparts to Napoleon, Alexander, Tamerlane, Cort├ęs, Pizarro, and Genghis Khan to make their mark on a wide-open world. 
And for their insolence, God either reduces their lifespan or expedites the flood (depending on how we construe Gen 6:3). 

16) One scholar thinks this may be a polemic against cult prostitution, where men had sex with a priestess who represented a goddess (Wenham 2003).

That's interesting, but it doesn't seem to fit the wording of the text:

i) The text uses stock marital terminology. 

ii) If it was alluding to cult prostitution, we might expect it to refer the "sons of Adam" and the "daughters of goddesses" rather than the "sons of gods" and and "daughters of Adam." 

iii) The wording is too generic to specify cult prostitution. If that's the subtextual target, it's pretty oblique. 
17) Finally:

i) There's nothing in Gen 6:1-4 about the "sons of God" coming down from the sky, much less their banishment from heaven. No descent. No heaven/earth contrast. That's reading 1 Enoch back into Genesis. 

ii) In Pentateuchal usage, divine fatherhood/sonship is employed metaphorically (e. g. Exod 4:22-23; Deut 14:1; cf. 1:31; 8:5; 32:6). I think it best to construe Gen 6:2,4 in the same figurative sense. 
Arnold, B. Genesis (Cambridge 2009), 89-90.

Wenham, G. Exploring the Old Testament, Volume 1: A Guide to the Pentateuch (IVP 2003), 27.

Genesis and genealogies

5 This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.
This is significant because it demonstrates that the image of God is transmitted through procreation. If we didn't have this statement, along with Gen 9:6, the reader might be left to wonder if the image of God was unique to Adam and Eve. But this shows the reader that the image of God is shared by all of Adam's posterity.
21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
This doesn't explicitly say that Enoch eluded death. However, that seems to be implicit in the studied contrast between the usual obituary notice ("Thus all the days of X were Y years, and he died") and the absence of that refrain in Enoch's case. 
If so, this is highly significant. It means that hope of immortality wasn't necessarily or essentially tied to physical access to the tree of life. Of course, Enoch's case is quite exceptional. But exceptional in a typological sense. Faith is the route to immortality. 
I) The function of genealogies
The Biblical genealogies became very significant and controversial in church history for two reasons. One, because these were used to date the origin of the world. In addition, many modern readers find the ages of the prediluvians incredible. 
It's important to keep in mind that using the genealogies to construct a timeline for world history is not their original design. That doesn't mean there's anything inherently wrong with using the genealogies to extract general chronological information. After all, Biblical archeologists often ransack the Bible for information in their historical reconstructions. 
But before we turn to that application, we need to consider their original function. Genealogies function as bridging devices to transition between one historical episode and another. They also place individual episodes within a larger narrative framework or continuous storyline. Finally, the genealogies track the progressive fulfillment of the seed of promise motif (Gen 3:15). 
II) Open or closed? 
Are the genealogies of Genesis open or closed? By "open," are they selective? Do they skip over some descendants? 
By comparing different genealogies in Scripture, William Henry Green concluded that the genealogies were open. Green's basic analysis has been supplemented by subsequent analysis. For instance, scholars have pointed out a 10-generation pattern. In addition, Gen 5 & 11 both terminate in 3 sons. The combination of 10+3 is improbably symmetrical if the genealogies are closed. Scholars have also documented the emphatic 7th position in genealogical lists. As one scholar noted:
Biblical genealogists, as is argued here, oftentime display a defi­nite prediliction for placing in the seventh-position personalities of importance to them…Minimal alterations were made in inherited lists of ancestors in order to place individuals deemed worthy of attention in the seventh, and, to a much lesser extent, fifth position of a genealogical tree. 

At the outset, the following cautionary statements should be made: 1- This method of attracting attention to specific individuals is but one of others available to Biblical writers3; 2- It should be emphasized that this procedure, which might almost be regarded in terms of a 'convention', was neither universally applied, nor slavishly followed; 3- The origin and development of this 'convention' could but be guessed at, since we have no comparative material from Israel's neighbors to control our speculations. It is not unlikely, however, that this procedure was promoted within intellectual circles, most probably among individuals who shared a desire to instruct. When organizing their lists, such individuals often had a didactic purpose in mind. The context in which their lists were placed, however, to a great extent determined a framework in which to work. Thus a certain equilibrium was achieved between the genealogist's eagerness to teach worthy lessons and the disciplining exigencies of a narrative. With their freedom somewhat constrained, genealogists, therefore, concentrated their didactic effort on one, or at most, two positions in a genealogical tree.In view of the prediliction that Semites in general, and Hebrews in particular, had for the number 'seven' and its multiples, the favo­ring of the 'seventh-position' should prove understandable (Sasson 1978).

I think there's compelling evidence that Genesis uses open rather than closed genealogies. They are selective and schematic rather than continuous and complete. For that reason alone, I don't think the genealogies supply exact intervals. To that extent, Usher's chronology flounders on faulty assumptions.

However, that, by itself, is not a fatal concession for young-earth creationism. Indeed, many young-earth creationists grant the fact that the genealogies are open rather than closed. I'll have more to say on this issue in a moment.

III) The Longevity  of the Prediluvians
i) Many readers balk at the longevity of the prediluvians. They disbelieve, or find it hard to believe, that human beings could live that long. However, it's important to keep in mind that from a theological standpoint, the longevity of the prediluvians is not an isolated or anomalous phenomenon. According to Gen 2, unfallen man, although he was mortal, was created with the potential for immortality. Eating from the tree of life would either confer immortality or at least rejuvenate him. Likewise, Scripture teaches the resurrection of the body.  
So, according to Scripture, it is possible, in principle, for a human body to live forever. Indeed, that's more than a hypothetical possibility. That will actually be realized. 
Of course, unbelievers will deny this. However, Christians shouldn't balk at the ages of the prediluvians. How can you believe the saints will live forever if you don't even believe someone can live for 900 years? 
ii) One commentator raises the following objection: "Paleoanthropologists have not yet uncovered any ancient skeletal remains that even remotely approach such advanced ages" (Youngblood 1999). However, I have two problems with his objection:
a) Youngblood doesn't bother to explain how paleoanthropologists would be able to determine the age of prediluvians from skeletal remains. If, say, they aged very slowly, could you tell that from skeletal remains? 
Don't we generally determine age of death from skeletal remains by comparison with normal lifespans? So what would be the frame of reference in the case of prediluvians? By definition, they fall far outside normal standards of comparison. 
b) Strictly speaking, Gen 5 doesn't say prediluvians in general lived that long. It's possible that those lifespans were confined to the line of Seth. If so, what are the odds that skeletal remains would even survive the ravages of time, much less be fortuitously discovered, by archeologists, given such a small initial sample group?
One might object that restricting the extraordinary longevity to the prediluvian line of Seth is arbitrary. However, there's something "arbitrary" about God singling out the line of Seth in the first place. But God selecting one individual or kin-group while excluding another is a major theme in the Pentateuch.
iii) Another problem with trying to cut the prediluvians down to size is that we have a steady decrease in longevity from the prediluvians through the patriarchs to the Mosaic era and beyond. For whatever reason, it starts high, then drastically lowers over time. Don't we need to interpret the ages consistent with that overall trend? Otherwise, we're depressing the pattern. 
iv) Another "solution" is to say the names stand for dynasties rather than individuals. But there are problems with that:
a) It fails to distinguish between linear genealogies, which trace through one descendant per generation, and segmented genealogies, that include more than one descendent per generation. Moreover, even segmented genealogies name each individual descendent.
b) It doesn't work for Enoch, where it's clearly describing a unique individual experience.
IV) Are the figures artificial? 
i) Some scholars argue that the figures are artificial. For instance, in his commentary on Genesis, Umberto Cassuto noted that the ages of the prediluvians in Gen 5 were divisible by 5, sometimes with the addition of 7. If true, that's striking. However, I have some reservations about his analysis:
a) This assumes the numbers in the Massoretic Text were transmitted with absolute accuracy for centuries on end. But numbers are highly susceptible to mistranscription, and once a numerical error creeps into the text, it's difficult to detect and correct. This is a problem with all those "Bible code" books that presume to discover subtle numerical patterns hidden in the text. There's no margin for error in their calculations. The transmission of the text must be exact.  
b) Unlike some numbers, such as 7 or 12, no special numerological significance attaches to the number 5 in Biblical usage. So it's not obvious to me why the narrator would be using multiples of 5 for symbolic reasons. 
c) If those aren't the actual ages of the prediluvians, why did the narrator assign those ages to the prediluvians? Cassuto's analysis fails to explain why each prediluvian is assigned that particular age, rather than some other age. 
d) Assuming that the ages are multiples of 5, sometimes with the addition of 7, does that mean these are artificial figures? Or does it mean these are round figures? Rounding the ages to make them divisible by 5 doesn't make them imaginary. That might be a mnenomic device. The occasional addition of 7 indicates the narrator was constrained by objective data, not just making it up whole cloth. Otherwise, why not make them all neatly divisible by 5? If he has to add 7 in some cases, that indicates the figures are not artificial. 
One might argue that 5 plus 7 equals 12, which is a figure with numerological significance in Scripture. However, the alternation between ages that use 7 and ages that don't seems random. 
e) If the ages symbolic, shouldn't that be a consistent numerological pattern in the genealogies of Genesis? What about other genealogies in Genesis? 
ii) An even more ingenious explanation was proposed by Barnouin, who correlates the ages of some prediluvians with the synodic periods of the seven "planets." However, I have reservations about his analysis:
a) As with Cassuto's analysis, this assumes the absolute accuracy of our extant Hebrew manuscripts.
b) There are 10 prediluvians in the Gen 5 genealogy, but Barnouin only finds astronomical correlations for a handful. That randomness suggests to me that his correlations are coincidental rather than intentional.
c) Why think the original audience for Genesis would even recognize these patterns? And even assuming they were detectable, why would they be significant to the original audience?
The approaches of Cassuto and Barnouin both seem to be rather ad hoc. 
V) From gaps to geological ages
In his classic, seminal essay, Green was very optimistic about the value of his analysis in harmonizing Scripture with geology. For instance:
And it is to be observed that the Scriptures furnish no collateral information whatever respecting the period covered by the genealogies now in question.  The creation, the Flood, the call of Abraham, are great facts, which stand out distinctly in primeval sacred history.  A few incidents respecting our first parents and their sons Cain and Abel are recorded.  Then there is an almost total blank until the Flood, with nothing whatever to fill the gap, and nothing to suggest the length of time intervening but what is found in the genealogy stretching between these two points.  And the case is substantially the same from the Flood to Abraham.  So far as the biblical records go, we are left not only without adequate data, but without any data whatever, which can be brought into comparison with these genealogies for the sake of testing their continuity and completeness. 

If, therefore, any really trustworthy data can be gathered from any source whatever, from any realm of scientific or antiquarian research, which can be brought into comparison with these genealogies for the sake of determining the question, whether they have noted every link in the chain of descent, or whether, as in other manifest instances, links have been omitted, such data should be welcomed and the comparison fearlessly made.  Science would simply perform the office, in this instance, which information gathered from other parts of Scripture is unhesitatingly allowed to do in regard to those genealogies previously examined(Green 1890).

i) A basic problem with Green's analysis is that you can accept his premise, but reject his conclusion. The fact that the genealogies are internally open doesn't mean you can fill the blanks with corresponding geological, prehistorical, or historical epochs. Green doesn't show how they correlate. There's a twofold challenge:

(a) Intercalating additional intervals within human history–within the genealogical gaps; (b) intercalating additional intervals before human history. An obvious problem is that Green is trying to harmonize the genealogies with 19C science. Let's compare the sequence in Genesis with the sequence posited by modern mainstream science:

Big Bang (14 billion years ago) Creation
Solar System (9 billion years ago)         Day 1
Earth (5 billion years ago) Day 2
Precambrian ( 4.5 billion years ago) Day 3
Paleozoic (1.5 billion years ago) Day 4 
Mesozoic (250 millions years ago)         Day 5
Cenozoic (60+ million years ago)         Day 6
Stone age (c. 10,000 BC) Day 7
Copper age (4000-3000 BC)
Bronze Age (3000-1200 BC)         The Fall
Iron Age (1200-600 BC)
Prediluvian civilization

The Flood

The Patriarchal period

How do gaps in the genealogies correlate with cosmic history or earth history according to mainstream science? I don't see that Green has solved the problem he posed for himself. 
ii) In addition, it's not just a matter of making room for modern scientific claims. Not just extra time, or empty intervals of time, but what events fill those intervals. Mainstream science has a detailed narrative of what was happening during those chronological slots. 
Green's solution is too facile to meet the challenge. It requires drastic, unforeseen theological concessions that I doubt he'd be prepared to make. 
Green, W. H. "Primeval Chronology, "BibSac 47 (1890), 285-303. 
Sasson, J. "A Genealogical 'Convention' in Biblical Chronology?" ZAW 90 (1978), 171-85.
Youngblood, R. The Book of Genesis (Wipf & Stock, 2nd ed., 1999), 73. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cain & Abel

4 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. 
It's sometimes said that Gen 3 doesn't really teach the Fall of man. Doesn't really teach original sin. That's a later reinterpretation of the text from church history.
i) To begin with, Bible teaching is often incremental. Even if Gen 3, all by itself, didn't teach original sin, it may record that turning-point in history. The full significance of that event will then become more evident as Bible history unfolds.
ii) Indeed, the story of Cain and Abel vividly illustrates the dire consequences of the Fall. The moral freefall is almost instantaneous. 
Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.
Unlike the garden of Eden, where delicious food lay within arm's reach, life outside the garden forces people to have more than one source of subsistence. A mixed economy is a buffer in hard times. 
 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 
i) The narrator doesn't tell us why God accepted Abel's offering, but rejected Cain–leaving it up to the reader to draw his own conclusions. Some commentators try to explain the differential factor in objective differences between the type of offering. For instance, one scholar has proposed that Cain's offering was unacceptable because the ground was cursed. However, one problem with that explanation is that vegetative offerings are part of the Mosaic cultus. So there's nothing inherently unacceptable about vegetative offerings from a religious standpoint.
ii) I think God is using reverse psychology. By spurning Cain's offering, Cain's reaction exposes his underlying attitude, which is why God rejected his offering. Although Cain's reaction takes place after God spurns his offering, it unmasks a preexisting attitude. And that's why God snubbed him in the first place. What happens afterwards is the explanation for what happened before. In a sense, the effect precedes the cause, but that's because God reads his heart.
6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Temptation is personified as a demon or predatory animal that waits outside to pounce the moment you open the door. 
8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
i) Because Adam and Eve forfeited the tree of life, they were condemned to die of old age. Yet the first fatality isn't due to natural causes, but murder. 
ii) Murder is one of the worst sins, but fratricide is an aggravated form of murder. Evil accelerates at a terrifying pace. 
iii) For parents to outlive their kids is a great tragedy for parents. In a way, that's more punitive than their exile from Eden. Sin has unintended consequences. This is one reason we need to obey God. We can't foresee the chain-reaction which sin may trigger. 
 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 
This illustrates the homeless motif in Scripture. Our first parents are banished from Eden. Then Cain is banished from the human community. Social alienation is one consequence of sin. Loneliness. Emotional isolation. 
13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 
Cain is the first sociopath. He has no conscience. No remorse. No sense of guilt. No concern for others. Having murdered his own brother, he plays the victim, wallowing in self-pity. This vividly exemplifies the moral blindness of sin. 
15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.
Critics find this anachronistic. Where were all the humans who were going to avenge Abel's murder? 
i) However, the text looks ahead to explosive population growth. Large, extended families. Keep in mind that the prediluvians had extraordinary lifespans, so a single breeding pair could lead to exponentially expanding families. Indeed, the narrator will clarify the proleptic reference in the genealogies that follow (e.g. Gen 4:17,25-26; 5:4).
In addition, until humans began dying of old age, Cain had no way of knowing how long humans had to live. He has no precedent, no sample group. 
ii) We should also keep in mind that this is Cain speaking, and not the narrator. Cain's fears may be unjustified. He may be paranoid. He's not a stable individual–to say the least. 
iii) But this also foreshadows the avenger of blood. If not in Cain's lifetime, certainly at a later date. 
 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.
Unbelievers love to dust off the old chestnut: where did Cain get his wife? At this stage of human history, you had interbreeding. 
Unlike parental incest, which is intrinsically wrong, sibling incest is not intrinsically wrong. Sibling incest is imprudent over the long-haul since interbreeding depletes the gene pool, leading to birth defects. But it's not inherently immoral.  
 When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. 19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.
This records the abortive origins of civilization. Urbanization. Art. Technology. Because Cain can no longer make a living as a farmer, since his farmland is accursed, he has to change careers. And he feels the need to create his own city of refuge, a fortified settlement to protect him from his imagined pursuers. 
Critics challenge how this can be correlated with the stone age, copper age, bronze age, iron age, &c. We need to keep several things in mind:
i) We need to distinguish between invention and cultural diffusion. Every invention is initially local. Know-how may or may not be disseminated in space and time. Some innovations occur in geographically isolated pockets where there is no cultural diffusion. It may be forgotten in a generation or so, then rediscovered somewhere else, at a later date. 
By the same token, you can have multiple discoveries by independent inventors. Innovations don't all happen at the same time or place. Therefore, it's artificial to arrange "progress" in a single timeline, for "progress" isn't that linear. 
ii) Add to that the random nature of what trace evidence survives, as well as what fraction of surviving evidence is found by archeologists.
iii) Moreover, we'd expect these technological breakthroughs to be obliterated by the flood. Postdiluvial society would have to start from scratch.
For an alternative explanation, see Collins.
iv) Narrative compression is a common technique in the historical writings of Scripture. Gen 4:17-21 may be a case in point. Consolidating events in a shorter timespan than was actually the case. That's not fictitious. Rather, it's a way of covering a lot of ground in a short space. Genesis doesn't presume to offer an exhaustive world history. It's narrowly selective.    
v) Liberal commentators routinely dismiss the many "etiologies" of Genesis as legendary folklore. However, there really is a first time for everything, so there's nothing inherently suspect about saying so. 
23 Lamech said to his wives:“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;    you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:I have killed a man for wounding me,    a young man for striking me.24 If Cain's revenge is sevenfold,    then Lamech's is seventy-sevenfold.”

Another example of the moral freefall. Polygamy, and the cheapening of life. 

25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 
That contains a miniature theodicy. Seth was the replacement child. He took the place of his murdered brother. Abel's death was tragic. Yet Abel's untimely demise made room for Seth. Absent Abel's premature death, Seth would not exist. What was evil for Abel was good for Seth. 
We are shortsighted creatures. We think we can imagine ways the world might be better. But "improvements" have unforeseeable long-range consequences. A short-term good may be offset by an long-term evil. A short-term evil may be offset by a long-term good. Only God can balance out all the tradeoffs. 
26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.
The inception of organized religion. A religious community. A community of fellow believers. 
Collins, J. Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? (Crossway 2011), 113-14.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Fall

3 Now the serpent
i) The Tempter makes an abrupt appearance, without any preparation. That may be in part because the reader is supposed to pick up clues from other parts of the Pentateuch. That may also be because "snakes" had preexisting cultural connotations which the narrator could trade on. More on both momentarily.
ii) Although the Hebrew word is a common name for snakes, the word also has occultic overtones with pagan divination (Hamilton 1991). That's lost in translation, so the modern reader can be thrown off by the deceptively ordinary sense of the English word.
iii) In the ancient Near East, venomous snakes were objects of fear and veneration. In fact, fear gives rise to veneration. You try to placate what you fear. 
iv) Ophiolatry and ophiomancy were commonplace in the ancient Near East. "Snakes" often stood for numinous entities. The Tempter, with his sinister, preternatural abilities, is clearly associated with the symbolic universe of "snakes" in paganism. 
v) There are Pentateuchal examples of this. Take the confrontation with the Egyptian magicians in Exod 7:8-12. That's a direct affront to Egyptian religion. Pharaoh's crown contained an image of a spitting cobra. That was the royal emblem of an Egyptian snake-goddess. Likewise, the bronze serpent episode (Num 21:8-9) is a polemic against serpentine sympathetic magic (Currid 1997; Currid 2013).
So the Tempter is not an actual reptile, but a personification of a malevolent supernatural agent. The narrator uses serpentine symbolism to evoke familiar occultic connotations. 
vi) Gen 3 doesn't unmask the identity of what lies behind the emblematic serpentine imagery. That awaits further revelation. However, in addition to various "earthlings" like humans and animals, the Pentateuch also refers to angelic "extraterrestrials" (as it were). So there's another class of rational agents. Creatures which, unlike Gen 1-2, aren't composed of earthly elements. Even at this early stage of progressive revelation, it's a short step from the serpentine Tempter to fallen angels.  
vii) The narrative function of the Tempter is explain the origin of suffering and death in human affairs. Since the garden comes direct from God's hand, there's nothing in man's nature or man's environment to explain the downfall of Adam and Eve. Rather, the catalyst must come from an outside agent. From something or someone interjected into the garden. An alien influence.
That, of course, doesn't explain the ultimate origin of evil. It pushes that question back a step. But it's not the purpose of Gen 3 to explain the ultimate origin of evil. Gen 3 is focused on the fate of mankind.
 was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
The Hebrew syntax is ambiguous. Is this including the Tempter in the animal kingdom (comparative construction), or excluding the Tempter from the animal kingdom (partitive construction)? The context must decide. 
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 
Although this is the first time the Tempter has put in an appearance, notice that he's been eavesdropping on conversations between God and Adam in the garden. Invisible surveillance. Biding his time for an opportune moment. 
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Eve is too unsuspecting to appreciate the danger of conversing with this deceptively innocuous stranger. She allows herself to be drawn into his net. She's no match for his fiendish sophistication. 
 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
A half-truth is more persuasive than a baldfaced lie. 
 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Sin makes them acutely self-conscious. When the devil makes an offer, there's always a catch. What he said was true–in a twisted sense. Consuming the fruit did make them wise–wise like the devil, rather than wise like God. God-like knowledge without God-like virtue. 
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
There's a question as to how to render the Hebrew. This might describe a stormy theophany of judgment: "The the man and his wife heard the thunder of the Lord God going back and forth in the garden in the wind of the storm" (Niehaus 1995; Sailhamer 2008). That would certainly fit the context. 
 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
God poses rhetorical questions to elicit a confession. 
 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
They shift blame. 
14 The Lord God said to the serpent,“Because you have done this,    cursed are you above all livestock    and above all beasts of the field;on your belly you shall go,    and dust you shall eat    all the days of your life.

i) Some Christians take this to mean the "snake" was originally bipedal. Since Exod 4 & 7 describe the metamorphosis of snakes, we can't rule out that interpretation. However, that interpretation makes assumptions about the identity of the "snake." Treating the "snake" as a natural animal. 

In addition, it reduces the curse to an etiological fable. How snakes lost their legs. 

ii) Another interpretation views this as a stock imprecation against venomous snakes (Walton 2001). That involves a contrast between a snake poised to strike, and a snake facedown. For instance, a cobra, with its short, backset fangs, raises itself to a vertical position to strike. Conversely, vipers, with their long retractable fangs, strike from a coiled position.

That interpretation also dovetails with the imagery of the next verse. Snakes usually bite the lower extremities. 

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,    and between your offspring and her offspring;he shall bruise your head,    and you shall bruise his heel.”

i) Once again, the narrator is using serpentine imagery to personify something or (especially) someone else. This is not an etiological fable about the origins of ophiophobia. For one thing, it's not as if venomous snakes are only hazardous to women. So there's no reason women would be singled out if that's what's in view.

ii) Traditional Jewish and Christian interpretation regards Gen 3:15 as a Messianic prophecy. Liberals scholars reject this, both because they deny predictive prophecy, and because they think the "seed" is collective rather than singular. But that's simplistic.

iii) The "seed" is both collective and singular. The oracle is diachronic. It forecasts a history of perennial conflict between two warring parties. Two representative groups. And this will come to a head in a climactic context between two individuals. 

iv) It's a mistake to interpret Gen 3:15 in a vacuum. There's a Messianic seed of promise motif in the Pentateuch (Alexander 2012; Sailhamer 2009). There's also a raging conflict between the people of God and their enemies. Between the faithful and the heathen. Between true believers and idolaters. That threads its way through the entire Pentateuch and beyond. 

v) Some commentators think a "bruised head" is mortal injury whereas a "bruised heel" is an irritant. But in context, the "bruised heel" represents envenomation. And this was long before the age of antivenin. Back then, a venomous snake-bite (unless it was a dry bite) was fatal. Keep Num 21 in mind when you read Gen 3:15. In the symbolism of the passage, these are two well-matched opponents. The outcome could go either way. Christians know how the story ends, but the original audience did not. So it's more suspenseful for them.  

16 To the woman he said,“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;    in pain you shall bring forth children.

i) This translation is somewhat misleading. For one thing, the Hebrew isn't confined to childbirth, but covers the whole period from conception to birth. 

ii) In addition, Scripture frequently uses labor pains metaphorically. To think the curse is mainly about birthpangs reduces it to an etiological fable. 

iii) Apropos (ii), I think this is a lead-in to chap 4. It anticipates the birth of Cain and Abel, the first murder (indeed, fratricide), and Cain's punitive banishment. Due to the fall, pregnancy is now a time of mixed emotions. Hope and apprehension. In a fallen world, you don't know how your kids will turn out. It may end in tragedy. Heartache and heartbreak. Had Adam and Eve stayed faithful, that would not be the case. 

Your desire shall be for your husband,    and he shall rule over you.”

This predicts for domestic strife, as husbands and wives try to domineer each other. We see examples of this play out in the patriarchal narratives. Spouses who undercut each the rather than supporting each other. 

17 And to Adam he said,“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife    and have eaten of the treeof which I commanded you,    ‘You shall not eat of it,’cursed is the ground because of you;    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;    and you shall eat the plants of the field.

Some Christians think this refers to drastic ecological changes. But in context, this looks ahead to the expulsion from Eden. Life was easy in the garden. Conditions outside the garden are far less hospitable. 

19 By the sweat of your face    you shall eat bread,till you return to the ground,    for out of it you were taken;for you are dust,    and to dust you shall return.”

Death marks the reversal of Adam's creation. 

20 The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
This confirms the fact that Adam and Eve were the first human breeding pair. 
 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
This brief statement is provocative. What's the significance of God's action?
i) It might simply mean that, given their shame, God was putting them at ease. Judgment tempered by grace.
ii) It could be in preparation for the harsher conditions they would face after God banished them from the garden.
iii) The terminology is also used in the Mosaic cultus (e.g. Exod 28:39-41; Lev 7:8; 8:7,13), so it may foreshadow the tabernacle. 
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 
i) In a fallen world, death is both a blessing and a curse. Loss of loved ones and the indignities of old age are a curse. But immortality in a fallen world would also be a curse. That is graphically illustrated by the rest of the Pentateuchal history, with its litany of suffering and depravity. 
ii) Man was created mortal, but with the opportunity to become immortal. However, Adam and Eve took the tree of life for granted. By consuming what was not permitted (the tree of knowledge) rather than consuming what was permitted (the tree of life), they lost both at one stroke. They forfeited immortality for themselves as well as their posterity.
iii) Yet that was God's plan all along. In the long run, a redeemed world is greater than an unfallen world. Indeed, Gen 3:15 already provides a glimpse of better things to come. 
23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
i) The eastern orientation is another link to the tabernacle (Exod 27:13).
ii) The description suggests the garden was enclosed by natural barriers. Perhaps a narrow river valley, like a deep ravine or gorge. By the same token, the river might be subterranean before it surfaced in the garden. There'd only be one way out–downstream. So there'd only be one exit to guard.  
iii) Cherubim seem to be a class of warrior angels. Statuary cherubim symbolically guarded the ark of the covenant. So this is yet another prefiguration of the tabernacle. 
iv) The fiery whirling "sword" conjures up the image of a fire devil. That foreshadows the pillar of fire in the wilderness. 
Alexander, T. D. From Paradise to Promised Land (Baker, 3rd ed., 2012), chap. 9.

Currid, J. Against the Gods (Crossway 2013), chap. 9.

_____, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament (Baker 1997), chaps. 5 & 8. 

Hamilton, V. The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (Eerdmans 1991), 187.

Niehaus, J. God at Sinai (Zondervan 1995), 155-59.

Sailhammer, J. Genesis (Zondervan, rev. ed., 2008), 87-88.

_____, The Meaning of the Pentateuch (Eerdmans 2009), 321-323; 587-590.

Walton, J. Genesis (Zondervan 2001), 224. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

East of Eden

These are the generationsof the heavens and the earth when they were created,in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

i) Some commentators think the chronology of Gen 2 contradicts the chronology of Gen 1. Even if that were the case, it would simply mean the narrator arranges the events in a topical sequence in one or both accounts.
ii) However, Gen 2 doesn't directly track Gen 1. Gen 1 is a global creation account whereas Gen 2 is a local creation account. Gen 1 is more cosmological whereas Gen 2 is more anthropological. Gen 2 takes Gen 1 for granted, but narrows the focus to the divine preparations for man's ancestral homeland. 
5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 
Scholars puzzle over the water source in v6, but in context I think we should construe vv5-6 in reference to vv10-14. River water supplies a natural source of irrigation for wild plants bordering a narrow strip along the river banks. What biologists call a riparian zone. 

"Edenic" is  a popular adjective. Many folks have a preconception of paradise. For some, "Edenic" is a tropical island. But what was Eden really like?

Landmarks change over the millennia. Place-names may change, or be forgotten. Rivers may change course, or dry up. 

However, to judge by the text, and what geographical correlations we are able to make at this distance, Eden was not a lush tropical paradise. Rather, it seems to be hot and dry, situated somewhere in the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys. Vegetation would crowd along the river banks, but quickly thin out from there. 

Or perhaps we should envision a marsh extending from the river banks. Marshy ground is potentially arable, but it requires cultivation. Drainage (Tsumura 1989).

I once lived in the San Luis Rey river valley. It had verdant growth along the river banks, but the surrounding countryside was rocky and dusty, except when it rained. After a heavy rain, barren patches of land would suddenly burst forth with vegetation. I expect Eden was less like a tropical paradise and more like stretches of the Rio Grande river valley. The ancient Jordan river valley supplies a biblical counterpart–as does the Nile river valley (Gen 13:10).

Its situation in a river valley insulates the garden from the vicissitudes of seasonal rainfall, ensuring a measure of stability. It's a good location, but there's room for improvement. It allows the human inhabitants to further cultivate the area beyond the indigenous green zone skirting the river banks. 

7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,
i) Many scholars regard "Adam" as a pun. The Hebrew word, both as a generic name for mankind as well as a proper name for the first man, puns the Hebrew word for soil. But I don't see how that's a play on words, any more that Leonardo da Vinci's surname puns a town in Tuscany. Yes, his proper-name derives from a place-name, because his birthplace was near the town. It's just a conventional way of connecting him to his place of origin. That's historical. Indeed, my own surname (Hays) is derives from a place-name in Normandy (La Haye-du-Puits). Likewise, the fact that Adam is named after the soil, from which he was constituted, doesn't make his name a pun–as if this is a literary device or etiology with no factual basis. 
ii) Many commentators, including conservatives, consider the depiction of God in Gen 2:7 to be anthropomorphic. No doubt Scripture contains many anthropomorphic depictions of God. But is 2:7 anthropomorphic? For one thing, if God actually made Adam and Eve by an act of special creation, how else would the narrator express that idea except by using idiomatic verbs normally employed in human manufacture? That’s the vocabulary he has at his disposal.

In addition, the depictions of God in Gen 2-3 dovetail with Pentateuchal angelology. The Pentateuch contains many angelic apparitions, including the Angel of the Lord. The Angel of the Lord is a theanthropic angelophany. Indeed, it’s arguably a Christophany (although the point I’m making in this post doesn’t turn on that identification).

I classify the depictions of God in Gen 2-3, not as anthropomorphisms, but angelophanies. The Angel of the Lord (a theanthropic angelophany). 

In the Pentateuch, angels do rub shoulders with men. Occupy time and space. Interact with their physical surroundings. 

iii) Finally, it’s instructive to compare Genesis with the Gospels:

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Gen 2:7). 

21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man (Gen 2:21-22).

And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue (Mk 7:33).

And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” (Mk 8:23).

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud (Jn 9:6).

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22).

Seems to me that Jesus has a modus operandi that’s very reminiscent of God in Gen 2. Jesus isn’t afraid to get dirt under his fingernails. If Jesus doesn’t mind getting grubby, up-close-and-personal, when he performs a miracle, why assume God’s method is different in Gen 2?

 and the man became a living creature. 
The traditional rendering ("living soul") is misleading because the "soul" in Christian theological usag, connotes the incorporeal mind or consciousness of humans which survives death, whereas the usage here is physical. This doesn't mean humans are simply brains in bodies. Rather, it merely means that at this nascent stage of human history and progressive revelation, questions regarding the afterlife and the intermediate state, which give rise to reflections on the immortal "soul," haven't yet arrived. The perspective of chapter 2 is prelapsarian. At this juncture, death is still hypothetical. 
8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.
God provides the first humans with an instant orchard to supply their immediate nutritional needs.  
 The tree of life was in the midst of the garden,
i) This doesn't mean the tree of life had inherent rejuvenative properties. It's a concrete symbol. God assigns a consequence to eating the fruit. 
ii) In addition, the tree of life prefigures the menorah. 
 and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
What is meant by "the knowledge of good and evil"? Perhaps we're asking the wrong question. Perhaps what matters is not what kind of knowledge the tree objectively represents, if any, but what kind of knowledge Adam and Eve imagine it represents. The tree is a cipher. That's what makes it a test. What it signifies to them. What they project onto the tree.
10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
i) The garden wasn't a mythical or legendary utopia like Shangri-La, El Dorado, or the Garden of the Hesperides–but a real place. It was situated somewhere in Mesopotamia. The Tigris and Euphrates are still extant, although their courses have changed over the millennia. Modern archeology has tentatively identified the other two rivers (Hill 2000). 
Although the reference to precious gems and metals might make it sound like a fabled paradise, these, too, refer to real places renown for goldmines and lapis lazuli. 
ii) In addition, the reference to precious gems and metals foreshadows the tabernacle furnishings and priestly vestments. 
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 
"To work it and keep it" are double entendres. On the one hand, they connote farming techniques. On the other hand, they connote priestly service in the tabernacle. The garden was a natural tabernacle (cf. Num 24:5-6). 
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
i) Because Adam and Eve were brought into being as mature adults, God endows them with innate knowledge and language. 
ii) Some readers are puzzled by why God didn't strike Adam dead on the day he sinned. Of course, the narrator would be aware of that. But "in the day" is an idiomatic synonym for "when." Adam will die, not as soon as he eats the forbidden fruit, but sometime thereafter. 
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. 
In context, Adam isn't naming every kind of creature on earth, but every kind of creature that frequents the garden. 
But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
Why was Eve made from Adam’s side?

i) The general reason is to stress the unity of man and woman. They were made for each other because they were made from each other. Like two halves a whole. That much is clear from the account itself, which stresses the fittingness of Eve, in contrast to the animals, to be the man’s companion and counterpart. The “one flesh,” “bone-of-my-bones” bond. Men and women have a natural, built-in rapport.

ii) But over and above the general reason may be a more subtle and specific reason for the choice of Adam’s side rather than some other part of his anatomy. As one scholar notes:

As we have already observed, the language of the garden scene is found in the tabernacle description; the term sela, here rendered “ribs,” appears frequently in the construction setting of the tabernacle, there translated “side.” (Mathews 1996).

So the narrator may be comparing the woman to a living tabernacle.

 23 Then the man said,“This at last is bone of my bones    and flesh of my flesh;she shall be called Woman,    because she was taken out of Man.”24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Gen 2 makes women central to the life of men. That's in striking contrast to pagan literature (e.g. the Iliad, the Epic of Gilgamesh), where a man's chief companions are other men. 
Excursus 1: Special Creation
The account of how Adam (v7) and Eve (vv21-22) were made is the locus classicus for the special creation of man, in contrast to the theory of macroevolution by common descent. And that's fine as far as it goes.
However, it's not as if the case for special creation comes down to three brief verses in Gen 2. Rather, the entire outlook of Gen 2 (as well as Gen 1) is at odds with evolution, whether naturalistic or theistic. In evolution, developments occur through a series of mechanical causes. If there is a God, he lies behind the automated system. He operates through natural processes.
In Gen 2, by contrast, the perspective is irreducibly supernatural. Personal agency rather than mechanical causation drives the action. God pops in at strategic turning-points to make things happen. And this isn't confined to Gen 2. It pervades the Pentateuch. Theophanies and angelophanies. 
Of course, the Pentateuch also has a doctrine of ordinary providence. Many things naturally occur. To some degree the natural order is like a machine. But the manual override is often used by God and other spiritual agents.  
To make room for evolution, you can't just reinterpret Gen 2:7 or 2:21-22. You have to reinterpret the entire chapter. Indeed, you have to reinterpret the Pentateuch. You must treat the way in which the Pentateuch depicts interaction between men and spirits as systematically fictitious or mythological. And, of course, it doesn't stop with the Pentateuch, or the OT. You have the same situation in the Gospels and Acts.
There are, of course, some radical theologians who are prepared to go that far. However, this is no longer a question of exegesis. Not a question of what it meant to the narrator or the target audience. Rather, this involves imposing an outlook onto the text that's fundamentally alien to the text. Accommodating evolution involves wholesale replacement of the narrator's perspective with an essentially secular perspective. 
Excursus 2: Animals and Man
Recently, an increasing number of professing believers has decided to jettison the historical Adam. The clincher has been the degree of similarity between humans and chimpanzees.

Now, the specific comparisons have been challenged by Intelligent-design theorists. However, it’s still the case that humans are more like chimps than salamanders.

According to evolution, we account for the similarity based on common ancestry. As a rule, similarity reflects affinity. Degrees of similarity mirror degrees of kinship. Organisms that are more alike are more closely related while organisms that are less alike are more distantly related. By “related,” I mean in terms of common ancestry.

Is there an alternative explanation consistent with special creation? Take the principle of plenitude. According to Christian thinkers like Leibniz, Aquinas, and Augustine, God made a world with maximal diversity. God made a world which would combine as many variations as possible.

(In addition, Aquinas thinks organisms have a hierarchical arrangement–from highest to lowest.)

Although that’s theological, there are secular versions of the principle, viz. the multiverse and the modal realism of David Lewis.

And on the face of it, the natural world does look like just about every conceivable strategy is represented. So this isn’t just an abstract postulate.

Now, assuming that organisms range along a continuum (i.e. degrees of similarity or dissimilarity), it’s inevitable that humans will be more like some animals, and less like others. And if that’s the case, then there may well be one animal that humans are more like than other animals.

That isn’t due to common ancestry, but graded diversity. If God made a full-spectrum world, then humans will resemble some creatures more than others–for the world was designed to exhibit a wide range of biological similarities and dissimilarities. Every feasible or compossible permutation will be represented.

Incidentally, when I speak of a scale (spectrum, continuum) of diversity, I don’t mean that in strictly linear terms. That’s an incidental connotation of the spatial metaphors. I don’t think all organisms can be arranged according to a single principle of continuity and discontinuity. In comparing two organisms, they may be alike in one or more respects, but unalike in other respects. My argument doesn’t require linearity.

To take a comparison, consider all the different styles of chess sets. Some chess sets are more alike, while others are less alike. That’s because humans value artistic diversity. And the world we inhabit seems to reflect God’s artistic diversity.

Another example is musical variation. Classical composers would demonstrate their ingenuity by ringing the changes on a particular theme. Notable examples include Pachelbel’s Canon, Handel’s The Harmonious Blacksmith, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, Brahms’s Variations on a Theme by Haydn, and Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

I’m reminded of Paul’s statement about “the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known…” (Eph 3:9-10).

As Hoehner says, this carries the connotation of “most varied.”

This is not an ad hoc alternative. It’s a comprehensive explanation, based on one overarching principle. That’s economical. It antedates the creation/evolution debate, so it’s not a stopgap that was pressed into service to stave off the Darwinians. And there’s no presumption that God wouldn’t, shouldn’t, or didn’t design a world with maximal variation.


Hill, C., "The Garden of Eden: A Modern Landscape," Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith 52 (2000), 31-46.


Mathews, K. Genesis 1–11:26 (Broadman 1996), 216.

Tsumura, D. The Earth and the Waters in Genesis 1 and 2 (JSOTS 1989), 119-21.