Sunday, July 5, 2009

Blogging the Bible part 5

Thanks to spending far to much time than I care for on The Secret this past week part 5 in our exciting series is late. So sue me. Maybe we'll try for a double whammy today to get back on track.

Genesis, Chapter 5 - From Adam to Noah. And to be honest, there's not much to this one.

This is, as the first line says, the written account of Adam's line. So, when God created man he did so in the likeness of God, as we already know but the authors of Genesis apparently think they need to reiterate. He created male and female and called them both 'man'. Which is a little confusing, let's be honest. (GEN 5:1-2)

Now, Adam had been alive for 130 years. Yes, that's right, 130 years. Who needs modern medical science? Apparently lifespans dropped considerably as time went on and are only now recovering. And here's an interesting observation on this - the more religious society became after Adam and Eve, the lower lifespans got. Religious belief is lessening now and guess what? Lifespans are going up. Coincidence? You be the judge. Am I being facetious? You be the judge.

Now as I was saying, Adam had been alive for 130 years and he had a son in his own likeness and image. He named him Seth. According to Genesis 4:25 though, Seth had already been born, and after Cain and Abel. So already it looks like Chapter 5 is another example of a different text being sown into the overall Genesis story and contradicting what has gone before. If Chapter 5 is a written account of Adam's line then why doesn't it mention either of Seth's older brothers? Cain, we know from Chapter 4, had descendants - why are none of them included in this Chapter 5 line? Surely we aren't talking about oral traditions that get confused and are then committed to paper by people far removed from the source but desperately trying to include everything they can in one book? Right?

No, that couldn't be the case. Why, that would make a mockery of Biblical literalism. Wouldn't it?

So, Biblical literalist, why aren't Cain's descendants included in the line of Adam? Is Chapter 4 wrong or Chapter 5? How do you know?

So, after Seth is born Adam lives for another 800 years. Wait. WTF? 800 years. That makes him 930 years old when he dies. (GEN 5:5) Who said this stuff was far-fetched? I guess all that hard toil in the fields does pay off after all. Seth then has his first kid, when he is 105 years old. I don't know about you but if I am still frisky at 65 I'll be happy, nevermind 105! Seth's son is called Enosh, which sounds suspiciously close to Enoch (who was born to Cain). Can anyone say 'Confused oral tradition set to paper long after the origin of the tale.'? Or are we just looking at authors with very little imagination for names? Seth, we are told, lives to 912 and has other sons and daughters, apparently none worthy of being named for some reason. (GEN 5:4-8)

Enosh, at age 90, fathers Kenan (and others) and lives to 905. Kenan fathers Mahalalel (and others) and lives to be 910) Mahalalel fathers Jared (and others) and lives to 895. Jared fathers Enoch (And others) and lives to 962. Enoch fathers Methuselah and lives to 365 whereupon, after walking with God for 300 years, God takes him away. Methusaleh fathers Lamech (and others) and lives to be 969. Lamech fathers Noah (and others) and says of him, 'He will comfort us in the labour and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.' Lamech lives to be 777. Noah, at 500, becomes the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth. (GEN 5:6-32)

And that's the end of Chapter 5.

Anyone notice how close some of this is to Chapter 4? Look in particular at Enoch, Methuselah and Lamech. Enoch was Cain's son (firstborn). Methushael was the great-great grandson of Cain. Lamech was the great-great-great grandson of Cain. (GEN 4: 17-18) Enosh was the son of Seth (firstborn). Enoch was the great-great-great grandson of Seth. Methuselah was the great-great-great-great grandson of Seth. Lamech was the great-great-great-great-great grandson of Seth. Tell me this doesn't just sound like confused oral tradition being set to paper far removed from the origin. Tell me this doesn't just look like different versions of the same story being clumsily combined.

In Chapter 4 we have Cain, Abel and Seth as Adam's sons. In Chapter 5 Cain and Abel aren't even mentioned once as his sons. In Chapter 4 we have Enoch, Methushael and Lamech mentioned as descendants of Adam via Cain. In Chapter 5 we have Enosh, Enoch, Methuselah and Lamech mentioned as descendants of Adam via Seth, and no mention at all of Cain. What happened to Cain's city and his children? What happened to his wandering? What happened to the Cain and Abel story? If you don't think this is the mythological version of Chinese Whispers then you have little experience of looking at primary sources from history which describe the same events, and how oral tradition comes to be recorded.

Keep in mind the central position the story of Cain and Abel holds in Christian mythology, and then see if either of them ever show up again. Why aren't they recorded in Adam's line as presented in Chapter 5 of Genesis? Why the number of similarities in the lines of Adam in Chapters 4 and 5, but the glaring omissions and differences? Which is to be believed and why? If both are to be believed (and surely they must if we are taking the Bible literally), why the differences? How do you reconcile the contradictions and omissions? Why did human lifespans plummet so drastically? Where's the archaeological evidence for these massive lifespans? Where's the evidence from alternative sources to the Bible? Where's the evidence for the slow deterioration of lifespans?

Let's have some answers please literalists.


  1. I checked out a bit what people who "interpret" the Bible say about this chapter.

    One claims people could live so long because the world was unpolluted.

    Another deals with the possibility of Enoch ascending to heaven without dying. He accepts this might seem far-fetched, but as only 10 other people in the Bible (his reckoning) escaped death and the other 99.99% (his reckoning) died naturally, it would be pedantic not to bend the rules for this tiny minority.

    Another site goes to great lenths to distinguish between life in the physical and in the spiritual sense. At first it seems to be setting us up for hearing that Enoch died physically but not spiritually, but then it comes out with this:

    "Now, regarding physical death, it will touch every human with just a few exceptions..." But as the exceptions are backed up with Biblical references, they must be true.

    There is a "Complete Idiot's Guide to Teaching the Bible" which says a few things about this chapter, but my brain rebelled before I could read beyond the first few words.

    This site:

    has PROOF that Chapter 5 is the word of God. It is a mystery to me why people who claim their faith needs no evidence get so excited when they think they've found some. But then again, even people like Francis Collins fall into that trap, and he has even less evidence than these guys present.

    Their evidence is that you can make a sentence out of the names of the first born, which predicts the future, so the writer predicted the future, which he couldn't've done if he was human, so the writer must've been God.

  2. I asked a Christian Fundie who I work with about this very age-related question only a few months ago. He came back with the same 'earth was not polluted by sin' crap (hadn't Adam eaten the apple by this point and therefore subjected all of us to original sin?). When it became obvious I wasn't biting on this, he changed tack:

    He also told me that a year was measured differently since they thought the earth was the centre of the universe, so a year in Bible language was actually a month. So, when all these cats were reputed to be 930 years old, they were actually only 77 (930 / 12).

    He sat back smugly waiting for me to reply to this (seemingly unerring) logic. A few quick mental arithmetic machinations then translated Jesus' age at death from 33 Bible Years to a shade under three years of age in 'today' years. No wonder he had problems carrying the cross to Golgotha - poor bugger was only just out of training pants.

  3. Blimey, my youngest is 2.5 and he can't even wipe his own bum, nevermind absolve the whole of mankind of original sin...