Category Archives: Genesis

CTP: Noah, the First Messiah (Genesis 6–9)

This week’s reading will be Genesis 6–9, but I’m pretty sure this will take us a few weeks to get through so don’t make any giant reading efforts…because there is a flood of theology here. Sorry if the puns are so wooden, but I guess that ship has sailed.

The First Mourning
The First Mourning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Out of the ground which the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.” Genesis 5.29

There is little wonder why Noah is such an enigmatic person, figuring heavily into later Jewish literature, including the New Testament. He, alone of all the human race, found favor in the eyes of God. He and his immediate family survived the great worldwide flood. Was it chance? Did he earn it?

It does not appear Noah was merited grace, but was divinely appointed to have grace, or favor in God’s eyes. If you look at what Lamech says, Noah was always meant to do what Noah did. I do not think we can look at it any other way except to say Noah was… shivers… preordained…. shivers…to do what he did.

In looking at this further, Cain’s line did not care nor really experience the curse. After all, they had time to build the industry of civilization as well as enjoy its luxury. They created poetry, music, and the cities of the antediluvian world. Seth and his descendents, however, seemed to dwell only on the land, worshiping God as evidenced by Enoch’s story.

But, then comes Lamech (son of Seth) who sees in the birth of his son the end of God’s cursing of Adam. Noah, whose name means “Rest,” flips the notion of the flood as giving rest to the gods. In Gilgamesh, the gods are tired of humans who cause all sorts of disturbances to the gods, thus they curse the humans by sending a flood. In Genesis, Noah is the Rest that undoes the curse given by God to the humans as well as the wickedness that has arisen to the ear of God.

The Mesopotamian gods sent the flood because the disturbances of the human world were preventing them from getting rest. So in that case, the flood provided rest for the gods. Here Noah is rather associated with bringing rest for people from the curse of the gods.1

We can look at the birth of Noah in several different ways. If we stick strictly to the Genesis account, we see something that doesn’t quite make it into our Western theology. The curse of Adam was upon the soil. Noah relieves that curse. (By the way, the soil is the same place from which Abel’s blood cries out.) He gives it rest (Sabbath, and if so, think of the implications of this consider the notion of Rest throughout Scripture).

You can find more about Noah here.

Genesis 6:

If you look at Genesis 4 and 5, you will see a summarized, straight down the line, genealogy and history from Adam to Noah. But, beginning in Genesis 6, the story starts over with the history of the human race spreading over the earth. Then daughters are born. That’s when things start to mess up. The angels (sons of God) see them, fall in love, and do what angels and humans are apt to do, I guess. Before you get too far ahead, look at Numbers 13.33. The offspring of angel and humans were herculean heroes.

In the middle of this, God declares something missed in many translations.

In Genesis 6.3, the KJV and some others make it seem like God is saying He (or His Spirit) will not always be with the human race. Yet, other translations drive the point home better. (See here for different translations compared.)

In the ESV, Genesis 6.3 reads: Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”

The REB says it pretty much the same way: “My spirit will not remain in a human being for ever…” which is why the lifespan of the human is now to 120.

I think this fits well with the overall notion of God breathing into Adam and giving him a living soul. God’s breath, the divine spark, is placed into humans but cannot remain there long (thus, death).

Look again at the introduction to the story of the Flood. Genesis 6 doesn’t tell you much about when all of this is taking place. God gives humans 120 years, yet the genealogies are still extensively long. Shem lived 502 years! Genesis 6.4 says “in those days as well as later” meaning, possibly, the prologue here is not meant to be placed on a calendar, but to serve some grander purpose.

For some reason, the giants are placed in the prologue but not given as the cause of the Flood. What is the cause?

I think that once we really talk about Noah — what it means that he was to lift God’s curse of Adam’s sin, what he means that he “found favor” with God (Genesis 6.8), and how the prologue looks a whole lot different when one actually reads it, we are going to be done with our hour-ish!

There are some suggestions the Noahic flood is copied/modified/uses/borrows Babylonian flood stories. There are equal suggestions that Noah’s flood is a real event (even though some suggest while it was real it was real only for Noah’s world, i.e., an isolate geographical location).

Excurses:

If you examine the lineage of Cain and Seth, you will names that are either the same or phonetically similar:

sethnoah

For fun and I wouldn’t base a lot of theology on this, you can see this post here. It includes the name similarities and even some supposed hidden meanings in the names themselves.

Also, as we discussed last week, there are several possible reasons why God rejected Cain’s sacrifice but accepted Abel’s. One of them may have to do with Abel as the second son, a common theme in Scripture. Or, it could have something to do with the animal is always the sacrifice. But, I think we should look at the similarities in the Adam/Evan and Cain/Abel story. Both sin. Both are exiled. Of course, Cain is moved further away from Eden than Adam and Eve where. But, look at the similarities between the first clothing Adam chose — the fig leaf. God then took animal skins. Cain offered fruits and vegetables (figs?) but Abel offered after the pattern of God.

  1. Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (electronic ed.; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Ge 5:32.

CTP Bible Study Class – Genesis 4–5

English: Cain and Abel; as in Genesis 4; illus...
English: Cain and Abel; as in Genesis 4; illustration from the Sunrays quarterly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week, we will begin to cover Genesis 4–5. This is not a lot because you can skip chapter 5 after Genesis 5.1-2. Indeed, 5.1-2 seems to be real important.

So, what happens in Genesis 4? Well, this is the first sacrifice. The first jealousy. The first anger. The first murder. The third baby boy.

As you can imagine, there exists several millennia of commentary on these chapters. This is a summary of some Jewish commentary. Here is a singler, modern, source. This is from the Book of Jubilees.

This is a set of stories that shows Cain and Abel in different cultural contexts.

This is a modern commentary, not necessarily Jewish or Christian.

One of the things you need to look at is 5.1-2 and how Seth, the third child of Adam and Eve re-creates Creation.

This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.

That returns us to Genesis 1.26–27 but adds to this. Now, we have a blessing and a naming.

Why does that happen? Why does the editor/author/redactor feel the need to restate this seminal point at the beginning of Seth’s line?

CTP Class — Reactions to Eden (Genesis 3.8-24)

Creation of Adam ( )
Creation of Adam ( ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to do something a little different with our reading of Genesis. As I have said from the beginning, if we read Scripture as Christians we should do so at some point in that cycle (the ‘T’ in CTP) canonically. Because of this, I want to read Genesis 3.8–24 next to later understandings of the text from within Scripture.

If you have just the books in the Protestant canon, you will miss the development of Adam and the Fall. Let’s define the Fall just a bit. This is the usual notion that Adam’s eating of the fruit brought death and despair to all people who are also his descendents. Only in Christ is the remedy found. But, this almost requires a particular view of how hold the earth is and where we all came from, i.e, Adam about 6000 years ago.

There are other alternatives that rely on Reason, and Tradition to interpret Scripture. For one, Adam could be Israel, or representative of Israel (perhaps even an ancient tribal king). Since the Old Testament doesn’t mention Adam any more, nor afford any cause of the condition of humanity to him, it is likely Adam is simply a progenitor of Israel. Remember, Israel is the only one with covenants with God and is a product of a covenant. It is better to see Adam as the first human in covenant with God. Another thing to think about — there is no sin outside of the covenant (just as there is not rewards from God outside the covenant). So, Adam could still bring sin to the world (i.e., the knowledge of what it means to be without God) because he finally knew what it meant to be with God.

A side note, and you don’t have to agree with me. I see Adam as the first person God covenanted with. This is not the first of humans, although he is the first of God’s creation, with creation remaining not the physical but the method of God and humans. Adam is the first of living beings, so Eve is the mother of living beings, with living being defined in Genesis 2 as “living soul.” When Adam and Eve left the Garden, they took with them the knowledge of God and in doing so, the covenant and hope of God which culminates in Christ. Is Adam historical? Maybe. Could be. But not as the first human, but as the first human in God’s plan. 

A few verses to consider when seeing the theology of  Adam and his sin develop. We see it really take off in what we Second Temple Judaism. Both of the books below are in Catholic and Orthodox bibles as well as Anglican Articles of Religion, deuterocanonical lists, and liturgies (PDF).

  • Wisdom 2.23–24 and Wisdom 10.1–2. I think these are very important, especially when exploring how wisdom became Wisdom, the female attribute of God and how she saved Adam because of his sin. (Compare this to 1 Co. 1.24.)
  • Sirach 15:14; 17:1-4; 25:24; 40:1; 49:16. Sirach 25.24 is particularly important given how many see Eve as the root cause of the sin.

I favor a date of 50BCE for Wisdom, placing it among the Hellenized Jews (perhaps in Alexandria. Hellenized means those Jews who used Greco-Roman philosophy to interpret Judaism). Sirach shows some Hellenization, but is dated much earlier. Both are used by the writers of the NT, which I also afford a certain measurement of Hellenization.

St. Paul, then, is the first of those we could call Christian to use Adam as a means to understand Christ.

In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul uses Adam as a way to exalt Christ and the benefits of the Resurrection. He does this only by comparison, with Wisdom’s view of Adam’s death in mind. See:

  • 1 Corinthians 15.22 and 1 Corinthians 15.45–47.

However, in Romans 5.12–21, St. Paul gives us something more. He gives us a new reaction to the Genesis story.  Adam is no longer just a comparison between the temporal and the eternal, but now provides a problem Jesus resolves. Focus specifically on Romans 5.15, but look at different translations (especially the Revised English Bible’s translation of this).1

For those following along elsewhere, last week I asked for songs that make use of the Adam and Eve story. This time, I am thinking of songs that remind us of God’s grace or perhaps, better, what we want to think of God’s grace.

Back to Genesis 3.8–24. Look at God’s reaction to Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Look especially at God’s fear in 3.22–24.

Admittedly, I’m more interested in St. Paul’s reaction than I am God’s, but…

Also, Prince is now covering Nicole Nordeman.

  1. “But God’s act of grace is out of all proportion to Adam’s wrongdoing. For if the wrongdoing of that one man brought death upon so many, its effect is vastly exceeded by the grace of God and the gift that came to so many by the grace of that one man, Jesus Christ.”

Genesis Rabbah 56.3 on Isaac’s wooden burden

This is from בְְּרֵאשִׁית רַבָּה:

AND ABRAHAM TOOK THE WOOD OF THE BURNT-OFFERING (xii, 6) like one who carries his stake on his shoulder.  AND HE TOOK IN HIS HAND THE FIRE AND THE KNIFE (MA’AKELETH). R. Hanina said: Why is a knife called ma’akeleth? Because it makes food (oklim) fit to be eaten.  While the Rabbis said: All eating (akiloth) which Israel enjoy in this world, they enjoy only in the merit of that MA’AKELETH (KNIFE).

AND THEY WENT BOTH OF THEM TOGETHER (ib.): one to bind and the other to be bound, one to slaughter and the other to be slaughtered.

This is from the Freedom and Simon translation. They note “stake” is the “stake of one’s execution” (a Roman method… a cross).

In the Jewish Study Bible, 2nd Edition (Oxford), the editors in Genesis 22 note that sacrifice is not execution.

Discuss (while I make notes for my dissertation)

CTP — Arummim and Arum (a Naked Genesis 2.25–3.8)

CottonGenesisFragment03rGodAdamEve
CottonGenesisFragment03rGodAdamEve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have just had a vision of Adam’s vision of his Other Half. Now, we are ready to shift into another story.

Genesis 2.25 is the beginning of the passage. This week, we will pick up here and discuss it up until the moment they take the bite out of the “apple.”

As a reminder, try to forget the stories you’ve heard and read the text (Genesis 2.25—3.8) for yourself. Read it slowly, in at least two different translations (Genesis 2.25—3.8NIV). This may help to break up what you know from what you read.

Naked. It’s a term that makes some of us cringe, some of us laugh, and some of us…ashamed. But why? We have this innate sense that nakedness is something to be ashamed of. After all, this story does sorta suggest that, right? But, what if this is a word play? What if nakedness is a metaphor for something else?

Disclaimer. I am not suggesting everyone get naked and carry on daily business. I’m just saying our attitudes about nakedness, skin, flesh, sex, etc… may be due in large part to simply not reading Scripture correctly.

What is the central tree we have to avoid? It is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As I have discussed before, this tree is more than a false dichotomy of right and wrong. It represents the all-in-all of what it means to know, to have wisdom, about everything from good to evil. In this small passage, we are told that this tree would give to the humans the knowledge of all that good-to-evil, making them divine (Genesis 3.5). This wisdom (Genesis 3.6) is what the tree represented. It was not about sin, but about knowing what God knew.

Think of what is the first characteristic “divinity” is given in Scripture. Wisdom. In later uses, Wisdom is personified as an attribute of God (usually female, Proverbs 8; Sirach 24). Even Job has Wisdom featured somewhat as an anthropomorphized image of God. What is this wisdom?

In the Ancient Near East, the serpent represented… life, death, wisdom, and fertility (among other things). Christians have sense given the serpent the title of “Satan.” But, remove that for a moment. In Gilgamesh, a serpent is present to cheat someone out of immorality. Think about how a serpent that cultures would have recognized as meaning “life, death, wisdom, and fertility” brings this story to life.

This brings us back to the nakedness. In Genesis 2.25, the couple is said to be naked (arummim). In Genesis 1, we are introduced to the serpent who is said to be “shrewd” (arum). This wordplay is important, I think.

From the NET Bible (Genesis 2.25–3.8NET):

  • The Hebrew word עָרוּם (’arum) basically means “clever.” This idea then polarizes into the nuances “cunning” (in a negative sense, see Job 5:12; 15:5), and “prudent” in a positive sense (Prov 12:16, 23; 13:16; 14:8, 15, 18; 22:3; 27:12). This same polarization of meaning can be detected in related words derived from the same root (see Exod 21:14; Josh 9:4; 1 Sam 23:22; Job 5:13; Ps 83:3). The negative nuance obviously applies in Gen 3, where the snake attempts to talk the woman into disobeying God by using half-truths and lies.
  • There is a wordplay in Hebrew between the words “naked” (עֲרוּמִּים, ’arummim) in 2:25 and “shrewd” (עָרוּם, ’arum) in 3:1. The point seems to be that the integrity of the man and the woman is the focus of the serpent’s craftiness. At the beginning they are naked and he is shrewd; afterward, they will be covered and he will be cursed.

What does “naked” mean? Some believe it is a word play, with one nakedness highlighted above another’s nakedness. The Targum Jonathan (c. 3rd century) translates Genesis 2.25 like this: “And they were both wise, the man and his wife, but they did not remain in their glory.” Thus, Genesis. 2.25 becomes something like a heading.

Maybe.

But, what we have then is that the serpent is made more crafty than the humans. Or, if we take these words as metaphors, then we see a fear of vulnerability in which case, the serpent (more naked) must work to trick the unsuspecting duo into eating the fruit because it is jealous.

There are a lot of “ifs” about these puns.

Let’s connected “nakedness” to wisdom. What happens when they become wise? Then they realize their nakedness and then work to cover it up.

If Genesis 2.25 is not a heading, but a statement of reality, then why does nakedness bring shame after they eat the fruit? Is this really a lesson about sexual temptation?

But, is there more?

This is a foundational story, especially for Christians. We have a lot of theology based on “the original sin.” But, what if the totality of the story is simply to ask the question, “What happens when humans get their hands on the knowledge of good-and-evil?” Maybe this: “The story … simply says that the knowledge of good and evil, in anybody’s hands other than God’s, will bring death and suffering, that is, expulsion from Paradise.”1

Another question… where do you think Adam was during all of this? Why is Eve the only one approached?

Some of the things this story is not about?

  • Evil. Evil pre-exists
  • This is the story of the Fall, a particular important story in Christian theology.  But, does the Fall exist in Judaism?
  • If this is the story of the Fall, what does this say about God?
  1.  Cesareo Bandera, The Sacred Game, pp. 114-115