Tuesday, September 13, 2005

These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations (Gen 10)

Minor point about the SAB's first note on chapter 10: this is actually the third genealogy (fourth if you count chapter one as the genealogy of the earth), after 4:17-24 and chapter 5 as a whole. The point is taken, however; Paul says to avoid genealogies, but the whole Bible is peppered with them throughout. I really don't know what this is about. My study Bible suggests the possibility that some of the pre-gnostic Christian cults were building strange doctrines based on obscure points in biblical genealogies, and Paul was warning not to take genealogies beyond their face value. They serve a purpose, but a very mundane one for the most part. I mean, could you imagine someone building some sort of bizarre cult based on some tiny little passage like IChronicles 4:9-10? How ridiculous would that be? (I've probably offended somebody; oh well...)

The SAB notes, as many others have, the mention of languages in verses 5, 20 and 31, and notes that this provides evidence against the story of the tower of Babel narrative in the next chapter. I disagree, and for similar reasons I disagreed with some items previously. It's always made sense to me that when the people were divided up into languages at Babel, they were divided by families, and so when the division eventually happened, these families migrated apart from each other and became nations, and so these nations were nations of distinct languages. I'll be honest though, and say that I do take the Babel narrative with a grain of salt, but mostly because I don't know much about formation of languages. There are thousands of different languages in the world today, and sometimes it's hard to imagine they all came from the same place. Still, I suppose if I can believe in something as far-fetched as the flood, this ought to be easy, right?

Verse 24 presents a true problem, at least, when you compare it to the genealogy in Luke. (Here's a suggestion for skeptics: maybe Paul said to avoid genealogies because if you really look into the genealogies in the Bible, it'll make you quite confused since they're occasionally hard to reconcile if you really read them closely. I did notice that the SAB catalogs a lot of these oddities and discrepancies.) Luke mentions some guy named Cainan between Arphaxad and Salah/Shelah, and you've got to wonder where he came from. One possibility is telescoping. Mainly I mention this concept because I've heard that many Biblical scholars explain most of the discrepancies in Matthew's genealogy by this phenomenon which the SAB notes on verse 17 in that chapter. In Hebrew, genealogies often are allowed that sort of flexibility, that a grandparent or great-grandparent can be called a parent, although it's odd Matthew tries to make some nifty magic number case by using this shorthand. I'm totally going on a tangent, here, though, because I don't really think this makes sense for Luke (although it's a distant possibility) because it would mean Luke (who wasn't even Jewish) knew some information about these genealogies that weren't in the Torah. That's highly unlikely. What's far more likely is that this is an error by some early copyist of Luke's Gospel, and perhaps he accidentally copied part of verse 37, which includes the phrase, "which was the son of Cainan," in it.

Only one more thing remains to comment on in this chapter, and that's verse 25, and this guy named "Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided". The SAB is right; I have heard creationists try to claim that this passage is referring to continental drift somehow. I find it unlikely (although not impossible) that continental drift somehow happened all at once just a few thousand years ago. It is far more likely that this is referring to the way the people of the earth were divided in the Babel incident. Peleg was likely born right after this moment in Biblical history, and was named by Eber (from whom some believe the word "Hebrew" comes) to commemorate the event.

What's up with this Nimrod guy? How come the SAB doesn't ask about him? That's a weird story, isn't it? Note that his name means "rebel", and he's the one who founds the city of Babel, which we get to in the next chapter.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Brucker, for your comments.

I removed the "first" part on the boring genealogy note and added some stuff about Nimrod. (I didn't know that Bugs Bunny called Elmer Fudd "Nimrod", in reference to him being a "mighty hunter".)

Sigglecow said...

It's also worth pointing out one of a million pop culture items taken from Genesis, and that is that Green Day called their 1997 album "Nimrod," in reference to the biblical character.