Monday, August 29, 2005

And called their name Adam (Gen 5)

This is going to be fun, since despite the large number of notes in chapter 5 of the SAB, most of them are of the same nature, and so I think we can dispense of this whole chapter in one post. Let's see...

The first point that the SAB brings up is the verse I've used for the title here. "So the woman's name was Adam, too!" The SAB notes as an absurdity. Well, the answer is, "Yes." Sure, it's not something you get from a surface reading of the KJV, but most people know that "Adam" is the Hebrew word for "man", so in a symbolic sense and in a very real sense, we are all "Adam."

As I noted before, the Bible can admittedly be a bit sexist when it comes to details, and daughters are indeed very rarely mentioned. So while verse 4 contains the first mention of daughters, there may actually have been various children of both genders before Seth was born. I myself had often assumed that this genealogy was mentioning firstborns only, and that they were coincidentally only sons, but what's really very likely going on here is we're tracing the male lineage of Noah from Adam. Sons not in the lineage and all daughters are not worth mentioning by name apparently. Even Noah's wife and three daughters-in-law aren't named despite their apparent importance to the story that unfolds after this.

So the big repeated note throughout this chapter is essentially, "Man, these guys sure lived to be pretty old!" I've heard a lot of theories about why these guys had such extended lifespans, and suffice it to say that most of them boil down to simply being so soon after the fall. They were living in a world that was new and fresh, and there probably weren't all the modern problems of disease that we have in modern times. Most theologians do believe that Adam was created to be immortal, so it took some time before the system really broke down and people started dying of natural causes. Whatever it is going on here, we'll see a contrast in the next genealogy. While having no particular value, I nonetheless present a little diagram I threw together last week when I was looking ahead at this chapter:

Enoch is an odd one, isn't he? The SAB has a lot to say about him, and indeed, he's strange. Let me address the three questions raised by the SAB in response to Enoch's story.

(1) Must everyone die? I suppose the SAB ought to have included the references to the prophet Elijah that it did in the second question here. (And it might have considered even discussing some odd interpretations of John 21:22 that are out there.) Yes, there are in fact two people in the Bible that didn't die: Enoch and Elijah. This coming despite the two verses quoted in the right-hand column. While the verses on the left are in some cases misunderstood, I'm going to focus on those two right-hand verses. When the Bible says "...death passed upon all men," we have to realize that there is room for exceptions. If there are a bunch of people going to sea in a leaky boat, and you say to them, "Everyone in that boat is going to drown," that doesn't mean that they can't get out of the boat and be safe. For whatever reason, Enoch and Elijah were allowed to "get out of the boat" if you will. The second verse is another matter that, if indeed a skeptic were to reject my reasoning here, the SAB needs to add some more notes to passages like John 11. Not only do we have a couple folks (at least) who don't die at all, but contrary to being "appointed unto men once to die," we have about half a dozen people in the Bible that die more than once, Lazarus being simply the best-known of the bunch. The real sense of this verse, as taken by theologians and run-of-the-mill Christians, is that under normal circumstances, people have one physical death to look forward to. The Bible gives us less than ten people that have non-normal circumstances in regards to the matter of death, so that's well over 99.99% of the world conforming to a literal interpretation of Hebrews 9:27.

(2) Has anyone ever ascended into heaven? This is a simpler one. My take on this is that nobody has ascended into Heaven and thereafter given testimony of it on earth. We do know that two people ascended to Heaven, and in fact, a lot of others ascended after their death, but what Jesus is saying in John 3:13 is that if you're looking for someone to tell you what Heaven is like, you've got nobody other than Jesus with that firsthand knowledge. (Of course, the SAB could consider this verse next to 2Cor. 12, although it describes an event after Jesus left.)

(3) Was Enoch the seventh from Adam? Yes, if you count Adam as #1, which is not at all unreasonable to do.

As a last note for this chapter, I'd like to take a side trip into Hebrew and talk about the meaning of these names. Maybe you've heard this before, I find it all fascinating. We know from the text that "Seth" means "appointed", and "Noah" means "comfort". The other names all mean something as well. The most interesting name on the list is probably Methuselah, whose name some have said means "his death will bring it." Methuselah died the same year as the flood.


Anonymous said...

So, you really believe that at some point these people lived for several hundred years???

We have never seen that in any recorded history of mankind except for the Bible. Don't extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof?

It seems FAR more likely that, through some means (lying, deceit, simple lack of knowledge, meant to be poetry, etc...) these Bible verses are in err here -- I mean, come on, they contradict EVERYTHING we know about the lifespans of man throughout recorded history. Where's the proof?

Brucker said...

Well, with a stretch of what one might consider "recorded history", there is in fact an ancient Sumerian text that describes certain kings whose lives lasted for thousands of years. But really, that's beside the point, I think.

Reading back over this old post, I'm surprised I failed to mention another popular theory that is in fact listed in the notes of my own Bible. Some have suggested that the lengths of the lifespans here, and the fact that there are exactly ten people in this genealogy and the next one, are suggestive that these people actually represent several generations of actual people, and the life spans are symbolic in some manner. 365 years and 777 years in particular stand out as interesting numbers. This may be the case, as it is clear in other places in the Bible that genealogies have been telescoped, although why the imposed extra-long lifespans? I don't know.

Generally, I tend to accept the Bible means what it says unless there is a pretty good reason to think otherwise. While lifespans like this do seem unlikely, I don't understand the threshhold at which a lifespan becomes absurdly long.

Kirsten said...

I think the main thing that needs to be addressed here is that the Bible was not sent down on a cloud with little angel wing feathers for bookmarks. It was written by humans. And humans are not perfect.

Brucker said...

Humans are not perfect, no, but does that imply that it is impossible for a human or group of humans to make something that is perfect? Not that I'm saying the Bible is perfect, but I'm saying that it sounds like you're implying something that does not necessarily follow logically.