The Father William Most Collection
Commentary on Genesis
[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]
Before reading any book of the Bible the first move is to try to determine the literary genre. A genre is a pattern of writing such that the writer asserts some things, not others. In a modern historical novel, he asserts the main line is history, does not assert that the fictional fill-ins are historical.
Vatican II, in Dei verbum §11 told us that everything that is asserted by the human writer, is asserted by the Holy Spirit, who is the chief Author of all parts of Scripture.
This information makes it possible to answer countless charges of error and contradiction: not everything is asserted. E.g. the narrative parts of Daniel - are they historical, or rather the genre of edifying narrative? If the latter then the writer did not assert everything really happened: a story of this kind serves as a lift - much the same as science fiction is to real science. Again, was Jonah meant as strict history or as a sort of parable? And the stories of the patriarchs -- many today think the genre is epic, i.e. the story of the beginnings of a great people, which still allows for considerable freedom or embroidery as it were (as we gather from epics of other nations). And the infancy narratives: how are they meant?
Very similar is the question of theologoumena (the singular is -on), e.g., when Scripture speaks of the virginal conception: is it meant as straight fact, or is it just a way of expressing her holiness?
It is obvious that what we have just said can be used well or badly. It can be used to solve problems. But it can also raise countless doubts. Early in the 20th century the Modernists used this sort of means to reinterpret almost everything in Scripture. No wonder them St. Pius X called it the "synthesis of all heresies."
Small wonder that the Church at that time reacted by restrictive measures -- disciplinary, not doctrinal. Yet even in that period the Pontifical Biblical Commission, on June 23, 1905, replied that we may take writings that at first sight seem to be history as something else, "subject to the judgment of the Church, and [when] solid arguments [show] that under the appearance and form of history, the sacred author intended to give a parable, an allegory, or a sense differing from the properly literal or historical sense of the words." ("literal or historical sense" is a broad term. Some think that the literal sense is found by treating the words as if written by a modern American, making no allowance for genera and other factors. The other, the right sense is: what the inspired author meant to assert).
So the decree does not forbid at all, as some foolish writers have been claiming, us to use the approach through literary genres. No, it insists on two things: our decision must be guided by the Church - and there must be solid reasons for our view.
These requirements are still true. Vatican II in Dei Verbum §10 wrote: "The task of authoritatively interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on [Scripture or Tradition] has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." We believe the Church because we have seen (via apologetics) that Christ gave the Church this commission, and promised divine protection to it.
The other requirement: to have solid reasons is simply the demand of real scholarship in any field of knowledge. An example of the opposite is the view of some commentators that Jesus did not multiply the loaves -- He just got the people to stop being selfish: they had loaves hidden in their cloaks! What is the solid reason for that proposal? Zero, just the blind belief that there are no real miracles.
At about the same period, starting earlier, the proposal of Darwin shook the faith of many. They had taken on the notion - it was never taught by the Catholic Church - that we should take Genesis in a fundamentalistic way, e.g., a day in general is 24 hours. so it must be 24 hours also in Genesis.
The danger here was psychological -- like the case of the little boy who ran to Mommy saying I found out there ain't no Santa Claus - and I intend to look into this baby Jesus story too!
So, many began to doubt their faith because of an objection that had no basis. Evolution of the human body- if it is not atheistic - does not clash with Scripture (more on this later). But people thought it did. So the Church had to be restrictive on such writings until people would get over this vain shock.
As we indicated above the decrees were really disciplinary, not doctrinal. They did not teach doctrine, just asked people to keep away from things that, taken wrongly, could be a danger to their faith.
But today all this has changed: thanks to Pius XII in Humani generis (1950) we know that it is legitimate to discuss evolution, as long as we do not make it atheistic, or claim it is certain, which many of its proponents do. As long as we see the need of God not only to create a rational soul, but even for advances at earlier points, there is no problem. By 1950 the danger was over, and so restrictions on publications about have been dropped - they were only disciplinary anyway, not doctrinal.
There has been a parallel in the case of Modernism. New approaches to Scripture, not wrong in themselves, yet left people at sea. Then in 1943 Pius XII in his great Encyclical on Scripture, Divino afflante Spiritu not only permitted the study of genres, but positively encouraged it. He kept the same restrictions as before: following the Church, and demanding solid proofs. (Really. the nature of things demands that we consider genres - to find what the inspired writer meant to assert -- otherwise we might be imposing our own ideas on Scripture, instead of finding out what it was meant to convey)
Pius XII told us it is even necessary to study genres, since people of the ancient Near East did not write the way we do. He added what is obvious: we must not just guess what genres were in use then - historical research is needed. He added that there are very few passages of Scripture for which the Church has explicitly declared the sense. That did not call for forgetting what is obvious: even if the Church has not pronounced explicitly on a text, we must see that any proposed interpretation fits with the whole of Church teachings. If it does not, we must drop it.
Pius XII also told us about Semitic approximation: they did not write in our way, e. g, in the Hebrew of the book of Jonah, Jonah warns of destruction in 40 days. But in the Greek version, the Septuagint, made by native Jews, the number is 3 days. The message conveyed was the same in their minds. St. Paul in 1 Cor 10 says 23,000 fell for immorality. But Numbers says 24,000. Again in Galatians 2.1 Paul speaks of going to Jerusalem 14 years later-- without telling us from what point he was counting.
In all these instances, the message conveyed to them was the same: hence the lack of American precision on numbers.
With such latitude possible in several ways, it is clear people can be confused. But they should know: The Church has the authority to teach, and does teach at least indirectly. on the things that really count.
1) Genre of Creation Stories
So - what is the genre of the creation stories? John Paul II in an audience of Sept 29, 1979 said: "The whole archaic form of the narrative manifests its primitive mythical character." Then he explained further in an audience of Nov 7, 1979: "The term myth does not designate a fabulous content, but merely an archaic way of expressing a deeper content. In note 1 he cited at length Paul Ricoeur. The Pope also said on Sept 12, 1979: "... the first account of man's creation is chronologically later than the second. The origin of this layer is much more remote. The more ancient text is defined as 'Yahwist'...." Pope John Paul II in his Audience of November 7, 1979 said putting Adam to sleep could stand for a return to the moment before creation, so that man might reemerge in his double unity as male and female."
We note two things the Pope said: 1) The genre of the creation stories is myth; but he explained it is not just a fable. He meant it was using an ancient story to bring out some things that really happened. 2) He spoke of the second creation account of man as Yahwist, thereby accepting the JEPD Documentary theory. - These conferences were part of a public series of audiences, but were not published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis: His Conferences on Genesis were published as Original Unity of Man and Woman, Catechesis on the Book of Genesis, Boston, St. Paul Editions, 1981). Hence he did not mean to impose their contents on the whole Church.
Right after the 1943 Divino afflante Spiritu, scholars got a bit loose. Hence Pius XII in 1950 Humani generis, warned of such looseness, and said the stories, while not history of the modern type yet "pertain to history" in a way that needs further study.
The words of John Paul II, mentioned above, which say the genre of the creation accounts is myth, do not contradict Pius XII. He said "they pertain to history" in a way needing more study.
Now this is easily done. We say that through the medium of a story the writer teaches many things that really happened, and so were historical. The chief things were: God created all things. In some special way (note the room for theistic evolution) He made the first human pair. He gave them some sort of command - we do not know just what it was. They violated His order, fell from favor.
Incidentally, even though the Jews spoke hardly at all of original sin, yet it is there in Genesis which reports that they fell from favor, which in Hebrew is hen - it means favor or what God gives as a result of that favor: wisdom or blessing. Adam and Eve no longer had the results of His favor, that is grace, and so could not pass it on to their offspring. So the children came into the world minus grace. That is original sin. (In an audience of Oct 1, 1986 John Paul II explained that original sin is only a privation).
It is suggested that the writer of Genesis used either the Gilmesh Epic or the Enuma Elish.
The only thing in the Gilgamesh that has any resemblance to Genesis is the account of the flood, of which we will speak more presently.
The Enuma Elish shows something more. The opening lines are as follows:
"When on high the heaven had not yet been named [did not exist], firm ground below had not yet been called by name, naught but primordial Apsu [sweet water] their begetter and Mummu-Tiamat [salt water sea], she who bore them all, their waters commingling as a single body; no reed hut had been matted, no marsh land had appeared, when no gods whatever had been brought into being, uncalled by name, their destinies undetermined: then it was that the gods were formed within them...." The only similarity to Genesis is that all starts with something like a chaos - yet not entirely so, for there are two distinct bodies, sweet water and salt water. Really, this was a generalization from the experience of the Mesopotamians, who saw new land appearing at the point where the two kinds of waters met, i.e., at the point where the Tigris and Euphrates entered the Persian Gulf. This is a crude notion, and has nothing in common with Genesis.
The really common feature is one found in many Near Eastern cultures: to name is the same as to bring into existence. [So, when the Messiah is said in many Rabbinic documents to have been named before the world began, it is apt to mean he had a preexistence]. - On the Enuma Elish, see, Alexander Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis, Univ. of Chicago, 1951. Heidel thinks the poem goes back to the First Dynasty of Babylon, which he dates 1894-1595 BC, with strands still older going back to Sumer. He gives complete text in translation, and other Mesopotamian variants, and discussion of similarities to OT. He sees too, many similarities (p. 129), which are too general. Enuma Elish does have the same sequence of creation of light, firmament, dry land, luminaries, man. But most of this is on only one of the 7 tablets, on tablet V. Most of the story is quite other. Heidel admits, p. 130: "In fact, the divergences are much more far-reaching and significant than are the resemblances." Even so, he thinks there must be a relation of Genesis and Enuma Elish - but the grounds are insufficient. Further, Heidel did not notice that Enuma Elish is based on observation of the way land formed by the mixing of waters - no such thing in Genesis, no such process.
Heidel also has another work, The Gilgamesh Epic, Univ. of Chicago, 1949. There is one part within it, the story of the flood, which really is remarkably similar to the account of the flood in Genesis. We will consider that part of it later on.
Generalization from experience shows also in a common Egyptian creation myth: The god Atum (meaning: totality - later, Ra-atum) stood on a mud hillock which arose out of the primordial waters (nun). He named the parts of his body, and so produced the first gods. A different version of the myth says since he had no female mate, he produced seed by masturbation. Then the resulting male and female deities took up the task of generation, produced further things. This myth seems to have been one of the oldest in Egypt. When Memphis became dominant, the question came up: where did Atum come from? They replied: Ptah, the god of Memphis, was the heart and tongue of the gods. Through the thought of the heart and the expression of the tongue, Atum himself and all other gods came into being. (Cf. John A. Wilson, The Culture of Ancient Egypt, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1951. esp. pp. 58-60).
The Egyptian myth, like the Mesopotamian, was generalization from Egyptian experience. When the annual flood of the Nile began to recede, the first things to appear were mud hillocks, sticking up through the water. In the heat and moisture, they were very fertile.
2) The Documentary Theory: Richard Simon, a priest (1638-1712) thought some "public secretaries" gradually added to the Pentateuch up to time of Ezra (5th cent). A Protestant, H. B. Witter, in 1711, was the first to suggest that different names for God could point to different documents. J. Astruc, a Catholic, in 1753, was the first to divide Genesis into documents. Karl Ilgen in 1798 divided Elohist into E 1 and E 2 (latter now is P). Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) refined the theories. Thought Pentateuch and Joshua reached present form after Exile, c. 450 BC. Earlier, he thought Israel had a naturist religion, then the prophets introduced ethical monotheism. (Wellhausen's interpretation of texts and events was based on pagan Arabic parallels. He, like the 19th century in general, did not have good data on the ancient world And he admitted he was influenced by Hegelian concepts). This theory has been dominant until recently. The Pontifical Biblical Commission, on June 27, 1906 while holding Mosaic authorship of Pentateuch, said perhaps Moses entrusted work to one or several men to write, and finally approved it. It also said that there could have been modifications in the Pentateuch after the death of Moses, by an inspired author, and that the language forms could have been updated. John Paul II in his general audience talks on Genesis, e.g., on Sept 12 & 19, 1979, Jan 2, 1980, as we saw, spoke favorably, and took for granted the theory is true. He did this in his: Conferences on Genesis (Original Unity of Man and Woman, Catechesis on the Book of Genesis, Boston, St. Paul Editions, 1981) But the theory is now under heavy attack. Yehuda Radday, coordinator of the Technion Institute (Israel) project, fed Genesis into a computer programmed to make a thorough linguistic analysis of words, phrases and passages. His conclusion: It is most probable that the book of Genesis was written by one person. (Newsweek, Sept 28, 1981, p. 59. Cf. also Y. T. Radday & H. Shore, Genesis: An Authorship Study in Computer-assisted Statistical Linguistics, in Analecta Biblica 103, 1985). (For an earlier attack, very thorough, see U. Cassuto, Professor of Hebrew University, Jerusalem, The Documentary Hypothesis, tr. from Hebrew by Israel Abrahams, 1961. Jerusalem, Magnes press, Hebrew University. It is distributed in British Commonwealth and Europe by Oxford University Press. Hebrew original was 1941). Cf. also K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, InterVarsity Press, Downer's Grove, Il, 1966, for an answer to the reasons proposed for the existence of several sources, by comparison with other Near Eastern literature. (Eugene Maly, in Jerome Biblical Commentary (I, p. 5, § 24, 1968 ed.) wrote: "Moses... is at the heart of the Pentateuch and can, in accord with the common acceptance of the ancient period, correctly be called its author." For later hands might add to an original core).
Joseph Blenkinsopp, in his review of R. N. Whybray, The Making of the Pentateuch, JSOT Suppl. 5, Sheffield, 1987, wrote (CBQ Jan, 1989, pp. 138-39): "It is widely known by now that the documentary hypothesis is in serious trouble, with no viable alternative yet in sight.... He [Whybray] has no difficulty in exposing the fragility of many of the arguments advanced in support of the documentary hypothesis in its classical Wellhausenian form. The criteria for distinguishing one source from another called for an unreasonable level of consistency within the sources, leading the documentary critic to postulate a multitude of subsidiary sources... and thus pointing to the collapse of the hypothesis from within. Curiously, too, the same consistency was not required of the redactors, who left untouched the many inconsistencies and repetitions which called forth the hypothesis in the first place." Whybray proposes that the Pentateuch is the work of a single "controlling genius" (p. 235) no earlier than 6th century B.C., who used a wide variety of sources not all of high antiquity. - The problem with that proposal is that it does not seem to take into account the probable long development of the legal tradition of Israel.
(Cf. also Isaac M. Kikawada, & Arthur Quinn, Before Abraham Was, Abingdon, Nashville, 1985. This work tries to find elaborate patterns which would cut across the lines of the supposed sources. The authors think the sin was refusing to fulfill the command, "Increase and Multiply": pp. 68 & 81. n. 9. But such a refusal would spread over a long period, whereas the Genesis account seems to portray a single occasion sin with a specific temptation. To refuse to have sex so as to multiply -- what sort of temptation would it be to make the refusal?.
A major argument for the documentary theory comes from supposed doublets, i.e., it is claimed that creation is told twice, in Gen 1 and 2. There are two genealogies of the descendants of Adam, in chapters 4 and 5. The flood is told twice there are some inconsistencies in the number of animals and on the timetable of the flood. And Noah enters the ark twice. There are also two accounts of the selling of Joseph into Egypt.
However, these special features may be due to a well known Hebrew pattern of using concentric circles in narratives: the story begins; after a bit, it goes back to the beginning, is retold with other details. This may go on for two or three rounds. Further, Kenneth A. Kitchen, of the University of Liverpool, in Ancient Orient and Old Testament (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 1966. pp. 112-21) has discovered similar patterns of repetition in documents from Urartu and Egypt.
As to the so-called inconsistencies in numbers of animals taken into the ark, there are two answers: a) Within the concentric ring pattern, at first a general preliminary statement is made, which is then fleshed out in the second ring, which also adds the distinction of clean/unclean animals; b) in 6:19-20 the Hebrew is shenayim - which is a dual ending (besides singular and plural, Hebrew had dual, for a pair). Now one cannot add a plural ending on top of a dual, hence we see the form which indicates pair, without saying how many pairs. In 7:2-3 we translate "seven pairs". Actually, the Hebrew has shivah shivah = "seven seven." Hebrew is not rich in forms.
Another major argument proposed for the documentary theory is the variation in divine names, between Elohim, and Yahweh Elohim. Again, Kitchen has found parallels to this sort of thing in other ancient Near Eastern literature (pp. 121-22): There are three names for the god Osiris on the Berlin stela of Ikhernofret; In the Lipit-Ishtar laws Enlil is also called Nunamnir, and in the prologue to the Code of Hammurapi we have Inanna/Ishtar/Telitum; in the Babylonian Enuma elish epic, three gods have double names. The same phenomenon is seen in Canaan, Old South Arabia, and among the Hurrians and Hittites. In none of those cases do scholars try to invent two or three documents.
Those who favor the Documentary theory also point to stylistic differences: the style of the Yahwist has unified scenes bound together by a continuous thread. He prefers the concrete, is good at character portraits. The Elohist lacks the picturesque manner, has less dramatic vigor. The Yahwist goes in for anthropomorphisms, the Elohist does not. But we reply: The reasoning is in part a vicious circle: the alleged documents were differentiated on the basis of the styles - then the styles are used to prove different documents. Again, Kitchen helps us (p. 125) by showing that style variations are common in the Near East. He mentions the biographical inscription of an Egyptian official Uni (c 1400 B.C.), which contains flowing narrative, summary statements, a victory hymn, and two different refrains repeated at suitable but varying intervals. A similar phenomenon is found in the royal inscriptions of the kings of Urartu.
One further question for now: Could we believe that some of the names and facts were really transmitted orally for centuries? We know definitely that such a thing is possible. For example, the first name on the Assyrian King List is King Tudia. For long it was thought he was only a legend. But now the picture has changed: An Italian archaeologist, Paolo Matthiae, began excavations at Ebla (about 35 miles south of Aleppo in Syria), in about 1963 and uncovered a major ancient civilization, almost unknown up to that date. In 1969 he showed an inscription to epigrapher Giovanni Pettinato, who quickly recognized the name of King Ibbit-Lim of Ebla. Pettinato dates the clay tablets from Ebla at about 2500 B.C. Pettinato further has found a text of a treaty between the King of Ebla, and King Tudia, founder of the first dynasty of Assyria. So we now are certain that Tudia is not legendary but historical - the Assyrian king list giving the name of Tudia dates from about 1000 B.C., while the tablet from Ebla shows Tudia made that treaty around 2350 B.C. So memory preserved correct data on Tudia for about 13 centuries. (Cf. G. Pettinato, The Archives of Ebla, Doubleday, 1981, pp. 103-05 also 70 & 73).
Wilhelm Schmidt (1868-1954), in his Der Ursprung der Gottesidee, 12 volumes, Münster, 1912-54) presented evidence from a study of various primitives, at the lowest level of material culture, such as those of Tierra del Fuego in South America, the Negrillos of Rwanda in Africa, and the Andaman Islanders in the Indian Ocean. The 1990 printing of Encyclopedia Britannica, 26, p. 554 says Schmidt and his collaborators, "saw in the high gods, for whose cultural existence they produced ample evidence from a wide variety of unconnected societies, a sign of a primordial monotheistic revelation that later became overlaid with other elements.... Their interpretation is controversial, but at least [Andrew] Lang [1844-1912] and Schmidt produced grounds for rejecting the earlier rather naive theory .... Modern scholars do not, on the whole, accept Schmidt's scheme.... it is a very long jump from the premise that primitive tribes have high gods to the conclusion that the earliest men were monotheists."
What seems to be rejected is the extrapolation from finding that many low level primitives (hunting and fishing stage) are monotheists, to the conclusion that the same was true of the whole human race at a similarly low level of culture.
However, the evidence for many such tribes in historical times still stands. The case seems similar with the Greeks and Romans, both of whom came from the Indoeuropeans. In those days when people traveled, they often tried to see if some of the gods they found in other lands were really the same as their own gods. Herodotus did much of this (in 2.50 he says that almost all the divine figures came to Greece from Egypt). Many of these attempts were strained, and without real foundation. But when the Greeks and Romans got to know each other, they found they had some myths and divinities in common, even though with different names. But now we know that the names for the chief God, Jupiter and Zeus (possessive case: Dios) are linguistically the same, both going back to Indoeuropean dyaus - p schwa ter. (The computer does not have a character for schwa, which is an obscure vowel, like the a on the end of sofa ). The IE word means "Sky Father".
Really if one does not suppose that it is highly likely that conditions for the whole race at the same level of material culture as known primitives (hunter-gatherers) would be quite similar, there is no solid way to establish what the race was like. It is far better than the mere armchair imaginings, of an evolutionistic type that others have used. So the extrapolation proposed by Schmidt was and is quite reasonable. Actually some scholars today in archaeology do make precisely such an extrapolation. In a recent work, The Adventure of Archaeology, by Brian M. Fagan, published by the National Geographic Society in 1989, on pp. 344-46 we find: "Experimentation in archaeology is not limited to state-of-the-art technology. 'New archaeologists' seek innovative ways to study living societies in order to construct models that describe the behavior of past ones. Jeremy Sabloff of the University of New Mexico said, 'We've gone beyond filling up museums with art objects. The objects are not an end in themselves but a means to inform us about the social and economic behavior of ancient people.' In the 1970s Lewis R. Binford of the University of New Mexico observed Alaska's Nunamiut Eskimos, a modern hunter-gatherer society. Binford watched the Eskimos set up hunting camps and saw how they hunted, killed, butchered, and ate animals. His insights gave him a fuller understanding of how ancient hunter-gatherers chose their campsites, and helped him analyze the animal bones found at such sites."
Further, as the Britannica says, at least Schmidt blocked the silly evolutionistic view that primitive man must have been stupid, that one day he came out of his cave, saw lightning and heard thunder, thought they were gods. There never was a shred of evidence for such a view. It was just imagination built on the assumption that everything has evolved. Recent discoveries now show that the artists who created the cave images were people of spirituality and grace; they loved painting, music, and beauty as well as the function of their technology (p. 58). Flutes have been found in Ice Age caves that play notes similar to today's scales. Randall White of New York University thinks the artistic Lascaux cave paintings are only the midway of human art history, which goes back tens of thousands of years earlier. Some of the art work found is over 30,000 years earlier. (Cf. "The Dawn of Creativity" in U. S. News & World Report, May 20, 1996, pp. 52- 58.
Further, Don Richardson a Protestant missionary, in Eternity in their Hearts, tells his own experience. In going to a primitive tribe as a missionary, he was welcomed by the elders who told him their ancestors had said some time a white man would come with a book they needed. Richardson tells of other missionaries who had similar experiences. And Paul Raffaele in "The People that Time Forgot" reports a similar experience among the Korowai Tribe of New Guinea (Readers' Digest, August 1996, pp. 100-07).
Church fundamentalistic?: Had the Church once taught a fundamentalistic view? First, to retell the story of Genesis in the same or similar words, does not amount to an interpretation. But further, the Fathers of the first centuries seldom tried to find what the ancient author really meant to say (=asserted). We comment that the words "literal sense" have two meanings, one which we have just indicated, which tries to find what the author meant to assert, taking into account genre, differences of language and culture etc. The other would treat the text as though written by a modern American and ignore genre and all such things. The Fathers instead preferred allegory, in which one thing stands for another. When they did seek the proper literal sense, they often were not at all fundamentalistic. For example, St. Augustine, in his De Genesi ad Litteram 6.12.20 (Literal Sense of Genesis) wrote: "That God made man with bodily hands from the clay is an excessively childish thought, so that if Scripture had said this, we should rather believe that the writer used a metaphorical term, than to suppose God is bounded by such lines of limbs as we see in our bodies." St. John Chrysostom made a similar comment on the episode of the creation of Eve from Adam's rib in Genesis 2:21-22. He said, in his Homily on Genesis 22.21: "See the condescendence [adaptation to human weakness] of divine Scripture, what words it uses because of our weakness. 'And He took', it says, 'one of his ribs.' Do not take what is said in a human way, but understand that the crassness of the words fits human weakness." St. John did not suggest what was the sober way to take the text. A fine suggestion was made by Pope John Paul II in his Audience of November 7, 1979. He said putting Adam to sleep could stand for a return to the moment before creation, so that man might reemerge in his double unity as male and female.
Evolution of the human body:
That evolutionistic notion was a further projection from belief in the evolution of the human body from primates. Science News, Research Reports of November 21, 1980, pp. 883-87 reports on a meeting of 160 of the world's top paleontologists, anatomists, evolutionary geneticists, and developmental biologists held at the Field Museum in Chicago. The majority of those scientists concluded that Darwin was wrong - not in those words, but they rejected Darwin's idea that there were many intermediate forms between, for example, fish and birds. They recognized that the fossil record does not provide even one clear case of such forms. This did not lead them to reject evolution itself. No, they opted for what they called "punctuated equilibria", the idea that a species might stay the same for millions of years, and then by a fluke, leap up to something much higher, in the same line. If any evidence for the view was offered at the meeting, Science does not mention it. Nor does the report in Newsweek, of November 3, 190, pp. 95-96. They might perhaps point to the high vertical columns exposed in the Grand Canyon, in which low forms, such as Trilobites, appear at the bottom, and higher and higher forms as one goes up. But there is no evidence that the higher came from the lower by a fluke or leap. Further it is admitted that the Grand Canyon was once a sea bottom: naturally the lower things would be found farther down.
The related theory of polygenism has had an inconclusive but impressive blow recently. Allan Wilson of the University of California at Berkeley (Science News, August 13, 1983, p. 101) from a study of mitochondria worldwide, concluded that all existing humans came from one mother who lived 350,000 years ago. At first Wilson received little acceptance, but now, as Newsweek of Jan 21, 1988 reports, his view is getting widespread acceptance, except that the age of the mother is now put at 200,000 years ago. As we said, this does not conclusively disprove polygenism - for there could have been, for example, 6 original pairs, but the lines from all but one died out.
Still more recently, investigation of X chromosomes has led many scientists to think all existing humans also had one common father. Same reservations of course as above.
What of the vision of Teilhard de Chardin, who thought just before the return of Christ, most of our race would be joined closely in a union like a totalitarian state, but by love.
This theory is a fine example of a mind suffering from a block by many preconceived ideas. We can hardly imagine Teilhard, a Jesuit, not having read Scripture. But Scripture could not be more contrary to him. In Lk 18. 8:"When the Son of Man comes do you think He will find faith on the earth?" St. Paul in 2 Thess. 2 paints the same picture. And 2 Timothy 3 gives a horrid picture of human character in the final age.
Nor does history support the notion of early dim-witted persons. Discover magazine of January 1996 displays two full pages of large paintings on cave walls. They were found on cave walls near Avignon, France, in 1994. The paintings of horses are splendidly artistic, as are also images of bears, mammoths, wooly rhinos and other Ice Animals, done in red, yellow and black pigments. There are 300 paintings. Earlier caves near Lascaux that rival these were found earlier. In the previous Spring pictures of two rhinos and a bison have been dated by Carbon 14 to about 32,000 years of age. Even allowing for errors in Carbon 14, these are very old, and of the ice age and show animals of that period that are now extinct.
Bereshith: The very first word is a source of debate. The traditional rendering has been: "In the beginning God created...." This seems to express making out of nothing. But the later version says: "When God began to form or create...."
The difference comes from some oddities in bereshith bara.
[The first vowel in be, instead of ba, seems to indicate construct state -- one which in translation yields English of. Also the ending in th is usual for construct, not absolute state. But it is replied that: since the construct state would not take an article, the preposition should be be. But the absolute state would take an article, which would give its vowel a to the be changing it to ba. - There are some nouns with construct in -eth: esheth (wife). Zorewell, Lexicon, lists bereshith as absolute, and compares aharith. - If we really want to take bereshith as construct, we should emend the bara to bero (construct infinitive). Not even Rashi did this, who first proposed the later version (great medieval Jewish commentator: Rabbi Shelemoh Ben Yishaq: 1041 - 1105 A. D).]
The newer version ---"when God began to form..." is not found until Rashi. The Septuagint had: "In the beginning God made..." (Greek has no verb for create = make out of nothing. The Palestinian Targum reads: "From the beginning the Son of God perfected the heavens and the earth...." However it is not a translation but a free rendering. Net result: the grammatical picture is irregular. Older Hebrew tradition favors the usual translation.
The newer version could fit with an idea that God did not create, but formed preexistent matter. NJBC seems to favor it.
Creation out of nothing? The verb bara is used only with God as its subject. But it does not always mean making out of nothing. Cf. Isaiah 45.7 "I form light and create darkness. I make peace, and create evil." On the thought cf. Amos 3.6. But in 2 Mac 7, 28 it is explicit that God made things out of nothing.
There was a frequent ancient concept that a word spoken by a person in power would bring about what he said. Thus in Isaiah 55.10-11 God says that just as rain and snow come down from the heavens, and do not go back to Him without accomplishing that for which they were sent, "so also the word that comes forth from my mouth will not come back to me empty." In some pagan lands there was a similar belief in the power of the word. In Egypt the god Atum named the parts of his body and the gods came into being. Some had a concept of creation out of nothing -- though Greeks and Romans, and many foolish moderns think matter was always there without a cause.
Earth was tohu and bohu: The two Hebrew nouns go together to express the notion of formlessness to express positive confusion or chaos.
The Spirit of God moved over the waters: Here Spirit seems to mean the breath or wind, God's power. But was there a thought this early of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity? Not likely. However: There are some hints:
1) Old Testament Hints: There is certainly no clear revelation of the Trinity in the OT. Some have tried to see some hints of it. The word elohim has a plural ending, yet is often used for God (it may also stand for angels or human judges). However, it usually gets a singular verb. It may be a sort of plural of majesty.
There are a few places where a plural verb is used:
Gen 1.16: "Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves." COMMENT: This could be merely the plural of majesty. However, it is introduced by a singular expression: "Elohim said."
Gen. 3.22: "See, the man has become like one of us."-- COMMENT: Introduced by singular "Yahweh Elohim said".
Gen. 11.7: "Come let us go down and confuse their language." COMMENT: Introduced by singular: "Yahweh said" in v. 6. Is 6.8: "Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?" COMMENT: Note the shift from I to our. B. De Margerie (The Christian Trinity in History, tr. E. J. Fortman, St. Bede's, Still River, 1981, p. 4) notes that these four texts come at special points in the history of humanity. He also asserts that "the OT did not yet have at its disposal a clear and distinct concept of human personality nor of person in general." (Cf. references there in note 7. The word nefesh though at times translated as soul or person, is really rather vague. The Fathers commonly argue from such passages as these to the Trinity. Cf. St. Augustine, Contra sermones Arianorum 16.6.1. PL 42.695. St. Epiphanius in Panarion 23.1. PG 41.383 calls this explanation the common one. St. Gregory of Nyssa, Oratio Catechetica. III. PG 45. 17-20, suggests polytheism is a garbled likeness of the Trinity. Cf. J. Finegan, Myth & Mystery, Baker, 1991, pp. 59-60. Also the fact that the Schmidt school of anthropology asserts that the lowest primitives had one God, a Sky-Father- cf. Indo-European Dyaus-pater. While it does not prove Schmidt right, yet it is interesting to notice that history does show in many instances that when a people has high material affluence, religion tends to suffer. The U.S. and Japan are examples today.
Firmament: Raqia stands for a solid extended surface, between the waters above and the waters below. Clearly this reflects a popular conception. But just as we say the sun rises - when we know it is the earth that rises -- so the sacred writer simply made use of common or popular language.
Dominion: In v. 26 and 28 God gives man dominion over lower creation. God Himself of course has all dominion. So this is a share in God's dominion, as is indicated by the words immediately before: Let us make man to our image and to our likeness. There seems to be no difference in image and likeness. But the content of both is expressed by dominion. Man is like God in having that dominion, under Him. Since the basic rights come from God, only He could give them, and only He, not the state, can take them away.
Hence it is clear that we cannot speak of animal "rights" against man: they are given no dominion. A right is a claim given by God to have, to do, to call for something. God in v. 30 gave to animals the plants for food. But again, there is no mention of any "dominion" for animals. Since the basic rights come from God, only He could give them, and only He, not the state, can take them away. Therefore "all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights."
Many experiments have been done to try to see or develop intelligence in animals, especially primates. Science News of Jan 20, 1996. pp. 42-43 sums up the results to the present. The primates show no trace of reflexive self-awareness. Nor will they ever. Mechanistic scientists like to consider the brain in a mechanical way. They can even identify which part of the human brain is active when the person does or experiences certain things. But no experiment finds any sign of abstraction, the process we use when after seeing many dogs, for example, we abstract -- pull way -- everything distinctive of any individual dog. Only spiritual intelligence can do that. So no medium - canvas, marble, bronze etc. can ever hold the likeness of my concept of dog, for example. which I get by abstraction. The physical side of the brain has as it were a parallel, a resonance, which psychologists call somatic resonance. It may even be possible to locate the place of resonance to real abstract thought. But the physical part cannot really hold anything abstract, even though a computer may be programmed to play chess, which involves running through myriad possible combinations with lightning speed. But there is no abstraction in the computer any more than in the primate.
May we then use animals for medical experiments? Yes: The animals have no strict rights: we have the obligation to use our dominion rationally.
Second Creation Account: Some theologians have speculated that God gave Adam infused knowledge. They may reason from the fact that Adam named every kind of animal. But the reasoning is inconclusive in that this is part of the story. What does it teach? It may be no more than that no animal was a mate for Adam. On the other hand, could Adam have developed language without it being given him by God. It is hard to imagine, for language commonly shows the power of abstraction: cf. out comments on dominion above. If God did not make Adam a gift of language then all communication between him and God would have been by means of interior locutions - no sign of that, and hardly fitting as the routine method in a being already equipped with the organs of speech.
What of the names Adam and Eve? Some weekend speakers, wanting to appear knowledgeable, have said: No. But care is needed. The genre of myth leave room for differences. So we need not insist on those particular names. But if they could talk, they must have called each other something, and that would suffice.
Was Adam just a generic word for man? in relation to adamah the ground? Then we would have Genesis teaching polygenism, or inclined to it. At present, scientific evidence does not reject polygenism flatly, but is unfavorable. We saw above that Pius XII in Humani generis, 1950 approved considering bodily evolution as possible - but not proved, provided it includes God's creation of the human soul. Then, turning to polygenism, he added that the faithful do not have the same freedom on it, because we cannot see how that idea could fit with Scripture and the magisterium. Some at this point say Pius XII closed discussion on polygenism --but others point to the "because" and say it may have been meant to leave open the possibility that someone might find a means of reconciliation.
Documentary theory: Does the change of names for God and the twofold account prove another document? Many have thought so. But it is far from proved: cf. our comments on JEPD in the introduction.
The fall: In Gen 3.15 God says: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike at your head, you will strike at his heel." Our question is: Could this text have been messianic, i.e., could it have meant a promise of a redeemer in itself?
We first check how the ancient Hebrews understood this passage. There are some few OT texts that might express original sin, but are quite doubtful.
Job 14:4: "Who can make clean from the unclean? Not one." The LXX reads: "Who will be clean [coming] from uncleanness? But no one [is clean], even if his life on the earth is one day."
In context, Job speaks of the frailty of humans. No connection is made to the first humans. The mention of those born only one day being in a state of uncleanness could imply a transmitted sin, but could easily refer to the evil yetzer, or else to levitical impurity from intercourse. So the text is quite doubtful at best.
Psalm 51:7: "Behold, in iniquity I was brought forth, and in sin did my mother conceive me." LXX: "Behold in iniquities I was conceived, and in sins my mother was pregnant with me." Most likely stands for ritual impurity from sex.
Sirach 15:23: "From the woman, the beginning of iniquity and because of her we die together." LXX has the same sense. The mention of the first woman does seem to refer to Genesis, but it is still not clear. However the word together could help suggest original sin.
Wisdom 2:23-24:"For God created man in incorruptibility and made him the image of his own eternity [variant "nature"]. By the envy of the devil death entered into the world." Ibid. 10:1-2: "She [Wisdom] guarded the first-formed father of the world... and delivered him from his fall, and gave him the power to rule all."
The second text here seems to refer to the personal salvation of Adam. The first does speak of death entering into the world, and so possibly could refer to original sin. Yet it is not clear.
Conclusion thus far: Very little of original sin, still less of a promise of a redeemer. All or nearly all could be understood of the yetzer ha-ra and its leading people into personal sin.
But better help comes from the ancient Targums: They are ancient Aramaic versions of the OT, most of them free, so as to have fill-ins which show how the Jews once understood them, without hindsight, that is, without seeing them fulfilled in Christ, whom they hated. Jacob Neusner in Messiah in Context, made a great survey of all Jewish literature from after 70 A.D. up to the Babylonian Talmud, 500-600 A.D. He found that up to the Talmud, there was no longer much interest in a Messiah. In the Talmud, interest returns, but the only one of the classic major points mentioned is that he should be of the line of David. In contrast, the Targums see the Messiah in so very many OT texts. It is evident, these parts of the Targums could not have been written in the literally centuries in which there was no interest in the Messiah. So they go back at least before 70 A.D. Some scholars think the beginning was when Ezra read the Scripture to the people, and the Levites out in the crowd explained it to them. This was in 5th century B.C., after the exile, when some had stopped using Hebrew, had turned instead to Aramaic. This is uncertain but very interesting.
The reason for Targums in general is debated. Some think that so many had stopped using Hebrew that a version was needed; others think the reason was to give a place to add interpretations - for in the Sacred Hebrew text, read before the Targums, no such insertions would have been permitted. It is uncertain how much Hebrew was known at the time of Christ. Targum Onkelos: "And enmity I will put between you and the woman, and between your son and her son. He shall be recalling what you did to him in the beginning; and you shall be observing him in the end." COMMENT: Onkelos is very sparing in seeing the Messiah; Only in Gen 49.10 and Numbers 2. It was much revised by the rabbis around 600, and messianic things removed. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: "And I will place enmity between you and the woman, and between the offspring of your sons and the offspring of her sons. And it will happen: when the sons of the woman will observe the precepts of the Torah, they will aim to strike you on the head; and when they will forsake the precepts of the Torah, you will aim to bite them in the heel. But for them there will be a remedy; whereas for you there will be no remedy. And they will be ready to make a crushing with the heel in the days of King Messiah."
Fragmentary Targum: "And it shall be: when the sons of the woman observe the Torah and fulfill the commandments, they will aim to strike you on the head and kill you; and when the sons of the woman will forsake the precepts of the Torah and will not keep the commandments, you will aim to bite them on their heel and harm them. However there will be a remedy for the sons of the woman, but for you, O serpent, there will be no remedy. Still, behold, they will appease one another in the final end of days, in the days of the King Messiah."
Targum Neofiti: "And I will put enmities between you and the woman, and between your sons and her sons. And it will happen: when her sons keep the Law and put into practice the commandments, they will aim at you and smite you on the head and kill you; but when they forsake the commandments of the Law, you will aim at and wound him on his heel and make him ill. For her son, however, there will be a remedy, but for you, serpent, there will be no remedy. They will make peace in the future in the day of King Messiah."
Conclusion from Targums: Three out of four of them make this text messianic, though they inject a bit of cloud from the use allegory.
Texts of the Magisterium
Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 1854:"The Fathers and ecclesiastical writers... in commenting on the words, 'I will put enmity between you and the woman, and your seed and her seed', have taught that by this utterance there was clearly and openly foretold the merciful Redeemer of the human race... and that His Most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was designated, and at the same time, that the enmity of both against the devil was remarkably expressed." -
COMMENTS: We notice that Pius IX does not say in his own words that Gen 3:15 is messianic. He says that the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers say that.
Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, 1950: "We must remember especially that, since the 2nd century, the Virgin Mary has been presented by the Holy Fathers as the New Eve, who, although subject to the New Adam, was most closely associated with Him in that struggle against the infernal enemy which, as foretold in the Protoevangelium, was to result in that most complete victory over sin and death. Wherefore, just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and final sign of this victory, so also that struggle, which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her Son, had to be closed by the glorification of her virginal body."
COMMENT: He speaks of the struggle against the infernal enemy as foretold in the protoevangelium, Gen. 3.15. Even though he does so in passing, yet he clearly takes it for granted that the protoevangelium does foretell that victory, a victory which is an essential part of his thought. Incidentally we notice the strong language on coredemption -- the "struggle" was a work in common, so much in common that there had to be a common result from a common cause - glorification for both Him and for her. [In passing: John Paul II, in his Allocution at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guayaquil, Jan 31, 1985, as in English Osservatore Romano of March 11, 1985, p. 7: "In fact, Mary's role as co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son."].
Pius XII, Fulgens corona, 1953: "... the foundation of this doctrine [Immaculate Conception] is seen in the very Sacred Scripture in which God... after the wretched fall of Adam, addressed the... serpent in these words, which not a few of the Holy Fathers and doctors of the Church, and most approved interpreters refer to the Virgin Mother of God: "I will put enmity...."
COMMENT: 1) If the IC is contained in Gen 3:15, then of course she is contained in it in some way. Here is a good illustration of the providential work of the Holy Spirit. If we had to work without the Magisterium, we would probably say that Gen 3:15 might possibly speak of the Mother of the Redeemer and further, might possibly speak of a victory in which she was involved, and might possibly say that victory had to include the Immaculate Conception - but we could not get across the gap from possible to certain. Similarly, and even more so, with the "full of grace" text, whose translation is so much debated. Patristic evidence has two things on the IC:
2) Some, not all Fathers, have sweeping statements on her holiness, which could imply the IC;
3) The New Eve theme could have included the reasoning: Since the first Eve had an immaculate start, the new Eve all the more should have it. But not one Father ever made such an argument. Hence St. Bernard was able to flatly deny the IC, and so many medieval theologians with him, until finally after the work of Duns Scotus, Popes began to intervene, with statements of varying clarity until about a century and a half before the definition of 1854, the whole Church peacefully believed in the Immaculate Conception.
Vatican II: Lumen gentium §55: Speaking of Genesis 3.15 and Isaiah 7.14: "These primeval documents, as they are read in the Church, and understood in the light of later and full revelation, gradually bring before us the figure of the Mother of the Redeemer."
COMMENT: Exegetes have long discussed the question of a "fuller sense" of Scripture: a sense in which the Chief Author had in mind more than what the human writer saw. Later with deepening revelation, according to the promise of Christ to send the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth, more and more has been seen. In H. Vorgrimler (ed.) Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, 1969, III, p. 220, we learn that the Council in DV §12 had an opening to declare on the existence of such a sense, but deliberately passed it by, writing less clearly. In the above words we do not have a formal statement that such a sense exists, but in practice LG 55 endorses it by making use of it. It shows uncertainty whether the human writer saw all the Church now sees: cf. M. Miller, "As it is written" The use of Old Testament References in the Documents of Vatican II. Marianist Center, St. Louis, 1973, pp. 49-60.
The citation of LG 55 continues: "She in this light is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise given to our first parents, fallen into sin, of victory over the serpent (cf. Gen 3, 15)."
COMMENTS: 1) In saying she is "prophetically foreshadowed" LG identifies the sense as typical. Eve is the type, Mary the antitype: but this typical use is a subdivision of the literal sense: the antitype is real and definitely meant.
2) Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus, as we saw above, had said that the protoevangelium does speak of the Messiah and His Mother. LG 55 reaffirms with further precisions.
3) The NJBC on p. 12 give a pathetically flawed conclusion: "... the literal reference is to the human descendants of Eve who will regard snakes as enemies." The same work has a rather good essay on Targums, yet in commenting on the individual messianic prophecies, including this one, never once does it make use of the Targums. It ignores both the Targums and the repeated declarations of the Magisterium.
4) DV 3 writes: "After their fall, by promising redemption, He lifted them up into the hope of salvation (cf. Gen. 3.15... )". This implies they understood at least substantially the promise of Gen 3.15. So they had good intelligence. Later by the time Gen 3.15 was written down, the hope seems to have been lost to sight among the Jews, although Don Richardson, a Protestant missionary, in Eternity in their Hearts, as we saw earlier, tells of his own experience. In going to a primitive tribe as a missionary, he was welcomed by the elders who told him their ancestors had said some time a white man would come with a book they needed. Richardson tells of other missionaries who had similar experiences.
CHAPTER 4:26: This verse says men began to call upon the name of the Lord. Hence a problem:
The Divine Names: El/il. Found already at Ebla, probably around 2500 BC: cf. G. Pettinato, The Archives of Ebla (Doubleday, 1981): p. 72 (date), and pp. 276-77 (theophoric names with il and ya). Cf. Akkadian ilu (late 3rd millennium) and Babylonian bab-ilu - gate of the god (Babylon). Also known at Ugarit (c. 1600 BC). - Almost out of use in OT, except in theophoric names and a few special combinations, such as El shaddai and El gibbor. Elohim. The most frequent OT word for God, but also used for pagan gods, for angels, and even for human judges. It has plural ending, most likely plural of majesty or intensive plural.
Yahweh: a) Meaning: debated. Most likely a verbal form of haya (Originally perhaps hwy = "to be".) Some think it a hiphil form meaning "cause to be". If we take it as meaning I am, the sense is almost metaphysical or abstract. Yet we meet something similarly almost abstract in St. Paul's focusing esp. at Rom 8:7: "The flesh is not subject to the law of God, for it cannot be: those in the flesh cannot please God." Cf. 1 Jn 3:9:"Everyone who is begotten of God does not sin... and he is not able to sin, since he is begotten of God." On focusing cf. W. Most, "Focusing in St. Paul", in Faith & Reason, fall, 1976. II. 2. pp. 47-70. (Given as research paper at Catholic Biblical Association convention, Douglaston, NY in 1973).
b) Occurrence: It is probably found at Ebla - cf. Archives of Ebla, pp. 276-77. Also found on the Moabite stone (9th century BC) and may be an element in Egyptian, Ugaritic, Nabatean and Mari texts of 2nd millennium BC. Postexilic Jews developed such a reverence for the name that they would not pronounce it in public reading, except that the High Priest could say it on Yom Kippur (other uses by priests: debated). The Dead Sea Scrolls use the Paleo-Hebrew script for writing it. In the Masoretic text it has the consonants yhwh, but the vowel points for adonai, lord, so no one would inadvertently pronounce it. In the 16th century AD this led to the mistaken form Jehovah. Modern Jews often use the expression: hash-shem = the name, to avoid saying it.
c) Revelation: There is a problem: Gen 4:26: "Then men began to call upon the name of Yahweh." in contrast to Exodus 3:14 and 6:3. In 6:3 God told Moses: "And I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai, and my name Yahweh was not known to them." (In 3.14 the burning bush vision God revealed the name to Moses). Possible solution: M. Dahood, appendix to G. Pettinato, in Archives of Ebla, pp. 276-77 suggests that the name was known to northern or Syrian tradition early on, but not known to Egyptian tradition until later. It is also possible that we have an updated form anachronistically inserted at Gen 4:26. It is also possible that the name was known to the first men, later forgotten, by the time of Abraham. Some have suggested that Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, a priest of Midian (cf. Ex. cap. 18), introduced him to the Midianite name of God - but this, unless it is an anachronism, denies the reality of the burning bush vision.
Adam knew his wife: Knew, Hebrew yada is a euphemism for sexual relations. Although there are broader meanings: know, love, even obey.
Cain & Abel: We need of course to determine the genre: (1) This passage comes right after the creation account which is mythical genre, as we saw above, and right before some highly stylized descriptions of an artificial list of those who first were tent-dwellers and had cattle; played the lyre and pipe and those who use instruments of bronze and even iron. Historically these developments hardly came within the first generation. Cain was banished to the land of Nod - but no humans are mentioned in Genesis as being there. which seems an artificial element: especially since Cain fears someone will kill him. The Hebrew Nod just means place of wandering, and Cain is said to have built there a city and named it for his son Enoch, even though there were few humans alive then. St. Augustine explained that the purpose of the small number was to show that the author wanted merely to bring out the line of descent of the city of God, and of the city of this world: City of God: 15. 8
(2) God accepted the sacrifice of Abel, not that of Cain. No reason is given. Each offered things later to be prescribed by the law. St. Augustine suggests (City of God 15. 7) that Cain gave a thing he had, not himself, as did Abel. This would mean that even when the exterior sign of sacrifice is good, the interior (obedience in heart) is what gives value to a sacrifice, as we see in Isaiah 29.13. A bit of artificial color may come from the fact that later on there was a tendency to idealize nomadic herding - less temptation there - instead of sedentary agriculture. This may help to explain the strange comment in Genesis Rabbah 22.3 that there were three men: Cain, Noah, and Uzziah (of 2 Chron 26, 10) - and "no good was found in them" Yet Noah in Gen 6.9 is said to have walked with God: he was the only good man before the deluge. (A note in the Soncino edition says Cain was a murderer, Noah a drunkard, and Uzziah a leper) Therefore we gather that the genre of this passage on Cain & Abel is much the same as that of the creation account -- an ancient story made to teach some things. Here it teaches 1) the need of interior dispositions for sacrifice; 2) God wishes to be less severe than many men in punishing.
V. 24: Enoch: Walked with God and was not seen, for God took (laqah) him. Ps 73.24 uses the same Hebrew verb laqah to indicate God will take the Psalmist into His vision. In 2 Kings 2 God took Elijah up - again, laqah.
v. 6:1-4: Sons of God and daughters of men: Many Fathers in the first 4 centuries thought angels had bodies, and so these lines meant real children of angels: St. Justin, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, St. Irenaeus, St. Cyprian, St. Augustine. St. Justin thought Psalm 78.25 meant that angels have food in heaven: "men ate the bread of angels". He even added, that the offspring were demons Now God could not create beings evil from the start. But Justin was fond of Plato, who spoke of daimones, beings intermediate between the secondary gods and the great God on the one hand, and humans. Later Platonists even spoke of good and bad daimones (cf. Augustine, City of God 9. 19 Then Julius Africanus proposed they were children of Seth. But today we consider it a fragment, within the mythic genre spoken of by John Paul II, which the inspired writer used, without asserting its truth, to show the decline of the race leading to the deluge. On Feb. 13, 1905 the Pontifical Biblical Commission said we may consider the possibility of implicit citations if there are solid reasons, and if it does not contradict the Church. Our case meets those standards. Cf. EB 160 and 181-86.
6.3: The age of man will be 120 years. We do not know if that is the general limit of life span for humans, or is it the time before the flood?
The deluge: There were even some libraries found in ancient times. There was one in the Temple of Nabu at Nineveh at least since the time of Sargon II (721-05 BC). But the greatest was that of King Assurbanipal (668-626? B.C. ), the last great king of Assyria, who sent scribes out to copy tablets, including works from the Sumerians and Akkadians. Nearly 30,000 texts have been excavated. The King wrote: "I read the beautiful clay tablets from Sumer and the obscure Akkadian writing which is hard to master. I had my joy in the reading of inscriptions on stone from the time before the flood." (Cited from Jack Finegan, Light From the Ancient Past, Princeton, 1974, pp. 216-17). (There is a king list from Sumer, which gives 8 kings before the flood, with a total reign of 241,200 years: cf. Finegan, pp. 29-30, 36.)
In our earlier treatment of the Documentary theory we answered the problems about two accounts of the deluge.
Could there have been any dependence on Mesopotamian stories? The Epic of Gilgamesh (cf. edition by A. Heidel) has on tablet 11 a story of a flood remarkably similar even in many details. But the Babylonian account is polytheistic, and the gods cause the flood out of mere caprice. Then they flee up to the battlements of heaven in fear of it. At the end when Utnapistim, the Babyonian Noah, came out of the ark and offered a sacrifice, the gods "swarmed like flies around it" They had not had anything to eat for a long time: sacrifices were food for the gods, not the external expression of interior obedience to God: Cf. Isaiah 29.13.
Could the inspired writer have made use of an ancient story, after purifying it of polytheism? In general such things are possible, as we have seen. Or both could have had a common source. But we know now thanks to high-resolution photos taken from our satellite that the ark is indeed physically there, far up on Mt. Ararat. I learned this from a highly-placed officer at the Pentagon, who has himself seen the photos. He added that our army sent a ground expedition to the ark, walked about in it, saw the stalls for animals, and measured it, finding the same dimensions as in Genesis. At some times the ark is covered all over with snow.
Was the flood geographically universal? Genesis speaks of covering the land, eretz. It could be the land known to the writer. And Ararat is far lower than Mt. Everest is at present.
Was the flood anthropologically universal? A few commentators have tried to say no. They point to some odd names mentioned in Genesis 14.5, and also Dt 2.20-21 and Num. 13.33 The odd names were strange: rephaim, enaqim, zuzim and emim. The reasoning was that since the names in the tables of nations were not complete, these names were of a prediluvian people. It is true the lists are stylized according to seven, and not complete. But that does not leave room for some surviving within the flood area.
9.25: Canaan cursed by his father: Commentators are far from unanimous. Some omit the problem. Perhaps the best is that in Biblia Comentada by Colunga and Cordero. They take Shem to stand for all Hebrews, blessed in that the Messiah was to come from them. Cham is Egypt (= Kem). Jews had kindly feelings to Egypt in spite of the slavery. Dt. 23.7 urges them not to detest the Egyptians. They used it as a place of refuge, as in case of Infant Jesus. But Canaan was subdued by the Jews, and in that sense was enslaved. (It is a prophecy rather than a wishing of evil: cf. the case of Genesis 3.17; The earth is no longer to bear fruits without tilling. Japheth (enlargement) stands for spread of Israel.
The nudity of Noah was accidental, not intended, but brought proper response of reverence from two sons.
Speaking of Noah as a tiller of soil is later than the same from Cain - mentioned here to show perhaps to show agricultural life is less good than nomadic.
Here we meet a stylized genealogy. It is in the spirit of earlier pictures here of the development of the works of civilization. We recall too that ancient genealogies were often artificial, to bring out some point, and were not merely family trees. Cf. R. Wilson, Genealogy and History in the Biblical World, Yale, 1977, p. 166.
We note too, as part of this free stylization, that the descendants of Noah are according to their own languages--before Babel.
Tower of Babel: The descendants of Noah decided to build a tower that would reach the sky. Gudea of Lagash and Nabopolassar of Babylonia had also used such hyperbolic language. And we do it too, in speaking of skyscrapers. We can tell that this is a stylized narrative similar to those we saw earlier in Genesis, since this accounts for the split in languages, while in chapter 10, much of it was already described.
Such temple towers are know widely in Babylonia, especially Etemenanki, temple tower of earth and heaven.
Babylon was a great and a proud city. God taught by this narrative how much He detests pride. This incident served also to connect to the birth of Abram.
In mockery the sacred writer plays on the meaning of the Hebrew root babel, confusion, and says that would be the better name. They had called it bab-ilu, gate of the gods.
CHAPTER 12: Patriarchal age - historicity and dating:
CF. INTERIOR AND EXTEROR TRACKS--BELOW
Up to now we have carefully investigated the genre of each part of the first 11 chapters, and found they all consist of ancient stories, used to convey important things that really happened. Thus they pertain to history, even though not history as we write it today.
It is obvious that the pattern now changes, with Abram, called Abraham, starting in chapter 17. Pius XII in Humani generis told us these chapters also pertain in some way, needing further study, to the genre of history, thought not history as we write it today.
First, then, we will see what opinions have been given on the basic question and then try to be somewhat more precise.
a) The patriarchs are largely eponyms, not historical persons: cf. H. Shanks, Ancient Israel, Biblical Archaeology Society, 1988, pp. 4-. Not many pick so radical a view. They may propose saying that there may be some traditions behind the narratives. But then we must recall that traditions in unwritten form can be transmitted well for many centuries. We know memories could be accurate for centuries, as shown by the case of King Tudiya, first on the Assyrian King list. For long the early sections were thought to be artificial or corrupt or merely invented. Now it is known from Ebla that Tudiya made a treaty with Ebrum, king of Ebla, around 2350 B.C. The Assyrian King list dates from about 1000 B.C., so the gap is about 13 centuries: Cf. G. Pettinato, Archives of Ebla, Doubleday, 1981, pp. 103-05.
In any event, is it credible that a people would invent such stories about their own origins as we find in Genesis? Such tales as the wretched behavior of Jacob to his brother Esau, and his monstrous lie that brought Jacob a rich blessing - these tales so distressed Augustine as to keep him from Christianity until St. Ambrose taught him how to deny the historical character and turn it all into an allegory - "non est mendacium sed mysterium" - not a lie but a mystery!
b) Albright, Speiser and G. E. Wright: They reason that some details in the stories correspond to known features of 2nd millennium culture in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Canaan. This reconstruction is widely influential even today, but much doubt has been cast upon it. Cf. Biblical Archaeologist, 42. 1 (Winter 1979) for two articles, favorable and unfavorable, pp. 37-47. Also H. Shanks, op. cit., pp. 9-1. This school holds that an urban culture flourished in Syria and Canaan in Early Bronze Age, much of 3rd millennium. But late in this millennium, this civilization collapsed, was replaced by dominantly nonurban, pastoral culture. Records of Dynasty III of Ur complain of chronic trouble with nonurban peoples. There may have been an invasion or at least massive immigration of nomadic peoples from edges of desert - they were called Amurru or Amorites. This is the Amorite Hypothesis. The patriarchs then are Amorites, and Abraham's movements belong to the Amorite movements. This Abraham phase would be 2100-1900 BC, which is Middle Bronze I. The next period, MB II A is age of unwalled villages in Syria and Canaan. The 12th dynasty kings of Egypt who were strong encouraged gradual development of a system of city-states in Syria and Canaan. But then in MB II B Egypt began to weaken, at the time of Jacob. This was the Old Babylonian period in Mesopotamia, time of Hammurabi and his successors. It is the age of Mari in Syria. New ruling dynasties in cities of Syria and Mesopotamia have typically Amorite names. Yet a substantial population of nomads remained which was also Amorite. For views of W. F. Albright, see his Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan, chapter 2 and From the Stone Age to Christianity; The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra. Some of Albright's students did not go so far as he did in this precision. Would say only that the patriarchal stories are best understood in setting of early 2nd millennium. Cf. Wright, in Biblical Archaeology, rev. ed. 1962; Wm. G. Dever, "Palestine in the Second Millennium BC: The Archeological Picture" in J. M. Hayes, and J. M. Miller, Israelite and Judaean History, 1977, esp. pp. 70- 120; Roland de Vaux, The Early History of Israel, 1978, pp. 161-287. Names like those of the patriarchs are common in materials of first half of second millennium. Abram and Jacob are actually found, but not Joseph or Isaac. Also, the Nuzi tablets showed similar customs in many, not all things. John Bright, History of Israel, 3d ed., 1981, esp. pp. 67-102, gave a classic modern outline of the view of Albright. E. A. Speiser, in Anchor, Genesis, using chiefly Nuzi archives, gave a largely Hurrian interpretation of the activities of the patriarchs. Cf. esp pp. xxxix ff. and 86 ff and passim. C. H. Gordon, in Journal of Bible and Religion 21 (1953) pp. 238- 43 and elsewhere (cf. K. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament  p. 42. n. 36) proposed a 14th century date, thought Abraham was a merchant-prince. Similar are views of O. Eissfeldt, in Cambridge Ancient History, 2d ed. II. 26a, 1965, p. 8.
c) Criticisms of the Albright proposals: 1) The pastoral peoples were present even earlier too, alongside of urban centers - so it is not likely their invasion or immigration caused collapse of cities. Possibly: overpopulation, drought, famine. 2) Circumstances of what is now called late Middle Bronze I (Alright's MB II A) could have been a suitable context: nomads and cities were side by side in Syria and Canaan. This is called a dimorphic pattern = urban and nomadic culture side by side. This dimorphic pattern has been common in Middle East even to modern times. 3) Nuzi patterns seem to reflect widespread Mesopotamian practices rather than distinctively Hurrian customs which might have been assumed to have penetrated into Canaan. The Nuzi type in which a barren wife provides a bondwoman is not unique to Nuzi - is found in Old Babylonian, Old Assyrian texts too, and also in a 12th century Egyptian document. 4) Names like Abram are not certainly attested in Middle Bronze Age (or in Ebla) but are found later, in Late Bronze. The name type to which belong Isaac, Jacob and Joseph are the most characteristic type of Amorite name.
d) Martin Noth and Albrecht Alt: Alt was teacher of Noth. They worked about same time as Albright. They believed Israel was formed from an amalgamation of various clans and tribes, which happened gradually during the period of settlement in Canaan. Noth tried to reconstruct things by history of traditions - derived from work of Hermann Gunkel, inventor of Form Criticism. A major clue to the origin of an element of tradition is its connection with a region, place or other geographical feature. Abraham is associated with the oaks of Mamre near Hebron. Isaac dwells at oases of Beersheba and Beer-lahai- roi. Jacob most closely tied to Shechem and Bethel. So Noth thought traditions about Abraham came from the Judean Hills, those on Isaac from SW Judah and Negeb, and those on Jacob from central hills of Ephrem. Thought the Jacob stories are the oldest component. These three traditions were blended when the stories were transmitted orally, before the composition of J. Dates proposed for J range from 10th to 6th centuries BC. Fact that Abraham was said to be oldest shows the combining took place when Judah was in ascendancy. Could not have been complete before 11th century. -- Note that in this view we can thus trace the development of the traditions, but have only indirect information about the patriarchs themselves.
e) Criticism of Noth theories: 1) Noth thought a story with a complex structure was surely late - but more recent study shows this need not be true at all. Cf. the notion that Mark had to be early for similar reasons: cf. W. Most, The Consciousness of Christ, pp. 215-16, and Frank M. Cross, :"The Epic Tradition of Early Israel...." in The Poet and the Historian. Essays in Literary and Historical Biblical Criticism, ed. R. E. Friedman, 1983, esp. pp. 24-25. Very probably Homer was an oral poet -- as also were the Ugaritic myths and epics - but the narratives are extended, with a complex structure. 2) Robert Oden, in: "Jacob as Father, Husband, and Nephew: Kinship Studies and the Patriarchal Narrative" in: Journal of Biblical Literature 102 (1983) pp. 189-205. has shown that kinship patterns are very often the central factors in the social structure and self-definition of a community. He sees two kinds of genealogies: one is linear, from Abraham to Jacob, which defines Israel in relation to other peoples, second, a laterally branched genealogy starting with the 12 sons of Jacob, which defines Israel internally. We note that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all marry within the larger family group.
f) T. L. Thompson in The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives, (Zeitschrift für alttestamentlich Wissenschaft, Supp, 133. 1974, wants to give priority to literary and form criticism, and virtually drop archaeology. He dates the patriarchs to the first millennium! J. Van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition, Yale, 1975, agrees on literary and form criticism instead of archaeology, and also dates patriarchs in 1st millennium. Criticisms of Thompson: The chronological details are simply impossible. For example, Van Seters thinks camel nomadism was not possible until the first century B.C. But he admits (p. 17) that there was "limited domestication [of camels] in Arabia in third millennium." Cf. K. Kitchen, op. cit., p. 79-80.
g) Conclusions: 1. Most scholars are convinced that the stories about the three patriarchs contain at least a kernel of authentic history, though they are reluctant to mark which details are authentic. Yet they say the narratives may be more ideology than history - to make a political and theological statement about the Israelite nation. We comment: Yet it is safe to assume that the Israelites, like many other nations, did have a tradition about their past, perhaps embellished, as in epic. The case of Esau fits a frequent pattern - his line is descended from a brother of the great ancestor, Abraham, having suitable marriages, Esau not. Ethnic separateness is one of the strongest features of the tradition, so the Israelite nation did not arise out of a coalition of outsiders, even though some others, probably of half Hebrew, half Egyptian ancestry joined the Exodus on the way out (Exodus 12. 38; cf. Num 11.4). As to the Exodus itself. It is unlikely a people would invent the story of their having been slaves for centuries, and then recount also their manifold infidelities during the desert wandering and after that as well. Moses and even God Himself many times called them stiff-necked people.
2. An objection comes from McCarter, in Ancient Israel, pp. 18-19, who thinks the twelve tribe entity did not come until David's time. He cites Judges 5:14-18 saying it shows no mention of Judah and Simeon, and says also Manasseh and Gad are also missing, while two tribes Machir (Judges 5:14)and Gilead (Judges 5:17) are given which are not in the later list. COMMENT: The list does not profess to give all tribes - just those who fought against Sisera. Manasseh is represented by Machir, a place name. Gilead is representing Gad. Gilead as a place name sometimes represents all Israelite Transjordan (cf. Joshua 22:9), or at times (cf. Num 32:29) it means only the areas between the Jabboc and Arnon rivers (i.e. Reuben and Gad) or (cf. Joshua 17:5) between the Jabboc and Yarmud (i.e., Manasseh). Judah and Simeon were simply too distant to join the campaign, and were not needed - enough without them. 3. Many believe the story of Joseph, Gen 37 and 39-47, originated independently of the stories about the three great ancestors. Yet the general outline of the events in the story of Joseph is likely to have an ultimate basis in historical fact, even if, as some think, some details are not historical. The story shows only a limited knowledge of the life and culture of Egypt. Thus Gen 41:23 & 27 speaks of a hot east wind scorching the grain, but in Egypt it is the south wind that does this. The titles and offices the story assigns to various Egyptian officials fit better with known parallels in Syria and Canaan than with Egyptian parallels: cf. Donald Redford, A Study of the Biblical Story of Joseph, Vetus Testamentum Supplement §20, Brill, 1970, and R. De Vaux, The Early History of Israel (tr. D. Smith, Philadelphia, Westminster, 1978), pp. 301-02. There are some authentic Egyptian details, but they seem to fit the period after the time of the Hyksos. K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, pp. 52-53: "... the price of twenty shekels of silver paid for Joseph in Genesis 37:28 is the correct average price for a slave in about the eighteenth century BC [cites Hammurabi code and Mari texts]: earlier than this, slaves were cheaper --average, ten to fifteen shekels), and later they became steadily dearer."
Details of historicity of the Exodus:
(1). Number involved: Exodus 12. 37-39 speaks of about six hundred thousand men, on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very many cattle, both flocks and herds. - This number seems impossibly high.
a) Some today tend to think a much smaller group was involved - perhaps represented by the tribe of Levi. Other proposals include : elements of the Leah, Rachel and the so-called concubine tribes. Others suppose two stages of escape - one as early as the expulsion of the Hyksos, c. 1550 - or in some other division resulting from the Pharaoh's hesitations about letting them go.
b) The best view is that the genre is much like epic, and Hebrews tend to exaggerate even without that. It is multiplying by a factor of ten. Cf. R. B. Allen, Numbers, in Expositor's Bible Commentary, (Regency, Zondervan, 1990 2, pp. 680-91
(2) The wall of water: An inspired author could record two variant traditions, without affirming either one - this seems true in the case of the crossing of the Red sea - two woven together in Exodus 14. Vv. 21-25 say the Lord drove the sea back with a strong wind- but yet says the waters were like a wall on the right and the left. And vv 26-29 speak of the deep waters coming onto the Egyptians. Compare chapters 16 & 17 in First Samuel, on David meeting Saul for the first time (On variant traditions, cf. Free From All Error, pp. 87-88. The inspired writer found two sources, did not know which was true, affirmed neither, only asserts he found the two: here they are.)
Gulf of Suez is 15 miles wide, but 217 miles long, high mountains on each side of it, which could funnel wind from NW down onto the gulf water at around 10 MPH on an average day. Oceanographers Doron Nof of Fla. State Univ. and Nathan Paldor of Hebrew University in Jerusalem say if the winds went to about 45 mph they would push the gulf water ahead of them. In ten hours there would be enough water cleared from gulf to drop water level by eight feet. (Discover magazine of Jan 1993, p. 62). But would 8 feet reduction in depth be enough?
(3). The route taken is extremely hard to determine. Many now think the Red Sea really was the Sea of Reeds, perhaps a papyrus lake. Cf. Oxford Bible Atlas, pp. 58-59.
One possibility is a southern route, along east coast of Gulf of Suez. We can tentatively identify some sites on this e.g., Marah and Elim. The vagueness of later stopping points may be due to rugged southern terrain where copper and turquoise mines were found. Then Mt. Sinai (Horeb) would be probably Jebel Musa. Then they headed NE to Kadesh-barnea.
A northern route would cross the narrow sandy spit between Lake Sirbonis and the Mediterranean, and then go SE to Kadesh-Barnea, and a Mt. Sinai in the north, perhaps Jebel Magharah or Jebel Halai. A major problem with this view is the difficulty of crossing the dunes between Lake Sirbonis and Kadesh-barnea.
They stopped at Kadesh-Barnea while spies scouted the land - Numbers caps. 13-14. Because of their faithless reaction there, God condemned them to wander for years, so none of the generation there would enter the promised land, except Joshua and Caleb. There is a problem of lack of remains near the probable site of Kadesh-Barnea: Cf. R. Cohen, "Did I excavate Kadesh-Barnea" in BAR, May- June, 1981. Pp. 21-33. However, Frank Moore Cross, retired from Harvard, in an interview in Bible Review, August 1992, pp. 23-32, 61-62 thinks the Israelites really wandered in the area of Midian, where many remains have been found. Also, Moses had the vision of the Burning Bush in Midian, and seemingly Sinai was there. Moses married a woman from Midian.
Modern Debates on the Date of the Exodus: It is clear that if we could date the Exodus fairly well we would know about when the patriarchs lived.
There are chiefly two tendencies in trying to date the exodus--early and late.
(1). Early dating, 15th century B.C.
The starting point for early dating is 1 Kgs 6.1, saying Solomon started to build the temple in his 4th year, 480 years after Exodus. If we take these figures we would have to accept these ages given for the patriarchs: Abraham 175 years (Gen. 21.7); Isaac 180 years (Gen. 35. 280); Jacob 147 years (Gen. 47. 28); Joseph 110 (Gen. 50. 26). Many reject ages so great- But they are not impossible. And Science News, Nov. 7, 1987, p. 301 proposes shift in length of years. Moreover, the 480 years looks like a symbolic number: 12 x 40.
Moreover the length of stay in Egypt is unclear. Exodus 12, 40 in LXX and Gal 3.17 say 430 years from Abraham's entry into Canaan at age 75 and the Exodus. But Exodus 12, 40 in Hebrew (Masoretic text) gives 430 years in Egypt, while LXX would have only 215 years.
Moses and Aaron were fourth generation descendants of Jacob's son Levi (1 Chron. 5.27-29). The 430 years assigned to slavery in Egypt is high for three generations, an average of 143 years each. - And this seems to clash with what 1 Chron. 7.20-27 tells: Joshua, a younger associate of Moses was a 12th generation descendant of Levi's brother Joseph. Then the 11 generations from Joseph to Joshua would average 39 years each. - We reply that genealogical lists are not always complete, and genealogies in Scripture need not be like ours: R. R. Wilson in Biblical Archaeologist, Winter, 1979, 42, pp. 11-22, and also R. Wilson, Genealogy and History in the Biblical World, Yale, 1977, p. 166. --Still further, numbers in OT are often very loose. Hebrew of Jonah has him threatening ruin in 40 days, but LXX for same has 3 days.
John J. Bimson, and David Livingston, in "Redating the Exodus" in Biblical Archaeology Review, Sept-Oct. 1987, p. 40ff. Would date Exodus to 1460 BC, with conquest at about 1420. This entails changing date of end of Middle Bronze II to just before 1400, instead of traditional 1550. A major Egyptologist Bietak dates end of MB II to 1500-1450 for Egypt.
This proposal solves most problems of remains of cities conquered:
Jericho is specially significant. BAR, March-April 1990. Bryant G. Wood, "Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?" He says yes, about 1400 B.C. K. Kenyon could not find such evidence, said Jericho City IV was destroyed at end of Middle Bronze Age (c. 1550 B.C.).
Wood argues: (a) Kenyon depended on not finding imported Cypriote ware which would point to Late Bronze I. But she dug in a poor part of the city, very limited - two squares 26 ft on a side each. She should not expect to find expensive ware in such a place. But Garstang has found it elsewhere in Jericho.
(b) Kenyon thought the destruction was associated with Egyptian pursuit of Hyksos. -- But why would the Hyksos destroy a city when fleeing? -- And there are no records indicating Egyptians came that far - farthest point was Sharuhen in SW Canaan. -- Further, Egyptians always destroyed by siege -- no sign of that at Jericho. And Egyptians started campaigns before the harvest, so supplies of food would not be enough to stand a siege. But Garstang found much grain in jars at Jericho, so it was not starved out (Joshua attacked after spring harvest).
(c) The cemetery of Jericho shows a continuous series of Egyptian scarabs from the 18th through the early 14th centuries BC. So it was not abandoned after 1500 as Kenyon thought.
(d) Radiocarbon test of burnt debris there shows date of 1410, plus or minus 40 years.
An attack on proposal of Wood, -In BAR Sept-Oct. 1990, Piotr Bienkowsi attacked Wood, agreed with Kenyon. But in same issue Wood answers - seems to have the better of the argument. Also, Kenyon has been caught in a large mistake in the City of David- cf. next item below:
Attack on work of Kenyon at Jericho: "Yigal Shiloh. Last Thoughts" in BAR March-April, 1988, pp. 15-27 - an interview before his death. In the fall of 1987, he was awarded the prestigious Jerusalem Prize in Archeology for his work on the City of David in Jerusalem. BAR, p. 15 says, "Shiloh confounded the skeptics and uncovered spectacularly informative remains that brought him world-wide fame and adulation." He found serious defects in the previous work of famous Kathleen Kenyon. On p. 25, with picture, BAR reports: "Before Shiloh excavated the City of David, the stepped-stone structure had been only partially excavated. Kathleen Kenyon who excavated in the City of David from 1961 to 1967, dated it to no earlier than the sixth century B.C." She was also noted for her work at Jericho. p. 23: "When we excavated in this depression, we found Early Bronze material, Middle Bronze material, Late Bronze material, even Chalcolithic. Do you understand? This proves again and again what I said about the defects in Kathleen Kenyon's system of working. You could work five years in one area. For example, in the southern part of Area E, we worked for five years. For five years, we found material only from the eighth century, the seventh century. But once we moved farther north, just three meters, there was a depression. We looked down and instead of bedrock we found Middle Bronze and Early Bronze material." p. 27: "As we mentioned earlier, when Kathleen Kenyon finished her excavations here, she in effect said good luck to anybody who follows her, but they will not find much." But Shiloh found a lot, as we saw.
Other sites in the Bimson proposal:
Gibeon: Joshua 9:27 records conquest, it as abandoned, but it was there at end of MB II. There would be signs of destruction at right time, of a city with a wall for: Hebron Lachish, and Hazor. Bimson argues that Ai belongs at Khirbet Nisya - which will show a site abandoned at the right point, with at least some occupation indicated at right time.
There remains a question about Arad. They place it at Tell Malhata - surface finds indicate occupation there. They think Bethel is not Beitin, but Bireh - MBII pottery found in surface surveys - other things not yet found.
Bimson and associates have answers for the late dating based on Exodus 1.11- shows some building in 19-17 centuries BC at Pi-Ramesse. At Pithom some signs of brutal treatment by Hyksos. Although there are no Egyptian records of great building in that area.
Goedicke's Thera theory: "The Exodus and the Crossing of the Red Sea, according to Hans Goedicke" by Hershel Shanks. BAR Sept/Oct. 1981, pp. 42-50. p. 45: "In 1477 B.C. during the reign of Pharaoh Hatshepsut, the volcano on Thera erupted; a huge tidal wave rolled across the Mediterranean and drowned the Egyptian army south of Lake Menzaleh; the fleeing Israelites escaped into Sinai." Goedicke also translates, on p. 49, a document of Hatshepsut: "I annulled the former privileges [that existed] since the time] the Asiatics were in the region of Avaris of Lower Egypt. The immigrants (shemau) among them disregarded the tasks which were assigned to them.... And when I allowed the abominations of the gods [i.e., these immigrants to depart], the earth swallowed their footsteps!" -- (Proposed change of date of Thera eruption to 165 BC, "In: Myth becomes History" by Carol G. Thomas, Publications of Association of Ancient Historians #4, pp. 31-37.)
Attack on Thera theory of Goedicke: "A Critique of Professor Goedicke's Exodus Theories" [As above, BAR Sept/Oct. 1981] by Charles R. Krahmalkov, in BAR Sept/Oct. 1981, pp. 51-54. On p. 53: "Krahmalkov's Theory. Embarking on ships from the Red Sea Port of Qoseir, the Israelites successfully crossed the Sea to Arabia or Sinai, while their Egyptian pursuers drowned in a storm."
Articles objecting to early dating:
(a) "Radical Exodus Dating Fatally Flawed", by Baruch Halpern, in BAR Nov.-Dec. 1987 pp. 56-61 - a slashing attack on Bimson. Many attacks followed on Halpern in March-April BAR, in letter section. Especially the following:
(b). Comment on Bimson proposal to move date to MB II: BAR. March-April, 1989, p. 54 (report by Hershel Shanks on annual meeting of BASOR and other societies): "Dever and Bietak [one of world's leading Egyptologists, director of excavations at Tell el-Daba, eastern Delta] disagree by between 100 and 150 years on the dating of the Middle Bronze Age II. Bietak dates this period from about 1700 to 1500-1450 B.C. Dever and other archaeologists working in Israel place the end of the Middle Bronze age about 1550 B.C. The end of the Middle Bronze Age also marks the beginning of the Late Bronze Age, the period immediately preceding the Israelite emergence in Canaan.... the basic issue is whether Bietak has correctly fit three strata of pottery from Tell el-Daba into Egyptian chronology. Unfortunately, Bietak's pottery is still unpublished. Moreover, say those who support Dever, we must also look at synchronisms with Mesopotamian chronology, which, like Egyptian chronology, also provides absolute dates. The relative dating evidence from Canaan also somehow bears on the outcome of the debate." [a note gives references to previous articles on the matter, BAR and others].
(2) Later dating of Exodus:
Dating of Exodus is often given as about 1290 BC, under Ramesses II. Calculation starts with Ex 1.11, which says the Israelites built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Raamses. Raamses may be Per Ramesese, which is probably same as Avaris-Tanis. Avaris was deserted after 1500, and was reestablished by Seti I (1318-01). Rameses II began in 1301, so he is Pharaoh of Exodus. Ps 78.12 and 43 say Hebrews were at Tanis (also called Zoan) when royal court was there. If they left in 1290, would enter Palestine c 1250. Then still 20 years to reach west Palestine and be met by Merneptah (cf. his stele). So they entered Egypt c 1720, about time of entry of Hyksos.
(a) Adam Zertal, Gives probable evidence for later dating: "Israel enters Canaan" in BAR Sept/Oct. 1991, pp. 30-47 after 12 years of surveying and excavating the tribal territory of Manasseh, found a trail of pottery showing Israel entered Canaan at the end of the Late Bronze Age (13th century BC) and continued into Iron Age I (1200-1000 B.C.) He found 116 sites from MB IIB (1750-1550), but then for LB 1550-1200) only 39 sites. The number rose again for Iron Age I (1200-1000) to 136. Iron Age people used the soil differently than the earlier group -they had to work on the hills. Zertal says pottery shows some of the Israelites entered near Schechem - Moses had told the to build an altar as soon as they crossed the Jordan, at Mt. Ebal (Dt. 17:1-11) which Joshua did. Others would have crossed near Jericho. Epic genre can easily accommodate such a pattern.
We have already explained that long oral transmission is possible: cf. G. Pettinato, op. cit. pp. 103-05.
(b) Kenneth Kitchen in BAR March-April, 1995, pp. 48-57, 88-96,"The Patriarchal Age: Myth or History?" gives what BAR calls "an extraordinary demonstration" that certain things in the stories of the patriarchs are found in early 2nd millennium BC - and at no other period. He shows that at least some elements of those narratives are time-specific, and the times indicated are those which the Bible gives for them.
Proposals of very loose genre:
(a) Mattanyah Zohar, Dept of Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem. In BAR Mar. April 1988. pp. 13 and 58:Argues that we know the pattern of epics from Serbia, Troy, Finland, Persia, Japan, Ireland, and others, that it is quite loose, floats in time and space, yet has a kernel in it - so we should treat the whole tradition of the Exodus. Hence on p. 13 speaks harshly: "... Bruce Halpern... takes seriously the esoteric dating of John Bimson and David Livingston.... This simply does too much honor to the 'lunatic fringe' growing around the archaeology of Palestine." We comment: The intemperate language is unworthy of a scholar. (NB also p. 104 above, Hershel Shanks' report on proposed change of dating of Middle Bronze II).
(b) Continuous Exodus theory: "How not to create a history of the Exodus - a Critique of Professor Goedicke's Theories" (cf. p. 106 above) by Eliezer D. Oren in BAR Nov/Dec. 1981, pp. 46-53. on p. 53:"The actual events were, no doubt, much more complex than the Biblical narrative indicates. All we can do in the present state of our knowledge is to suggest that the various traditions interwoven in the Biblical narrative imply that the Egyptian episode must be seen as a continuous process of migrations, settlement and movement on various occasions and along different routes, by small and large groups between Egypt and Canaan. At the same time, many people of the same ethnic stock remained in Palestine and never went to Egypt."[italics in original]. Oren was a prominent Israeli archaeologist and chairman of Dept. of Archaeology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
(c). Proposal of very loose genre on Exodus: "A Bible Scholar looks at BAR's coverage of the Exodus", by Yehuda T. Radday (of Technion Institute). BAR Nov. /Dec. 1982, pp. 68- 71. p. 68:"... the aim of the biblical historiography was not to 'tell history' as we moderns understand the telling of history. The Biblical authors were not historians in any modern sense of the term.... The purpose... was to promulgate certain specific religious, moral and social concepts.... [p. 69] Almost everyone admits that an Exodus occurred. But the details of the journey are presented in such a way that relating them either chronologically or geographically to known historical data is indeed difficult.... [p. 71]. Archaeology can neither sustain nor refute the Bible."
(d). Attack on loose genre theory of Exodus: Siegfried Herrmann, A History of Israel in Old Testament Times, tr. J. Bowden. Fortress, 1975 (dedicated to Albrecht Alt), p. 60: "The theory that a group of workers, presumably composed of different elements, finally escaped from Egypt and, despite their probable ethnic complexity, attached themselves to groups in the Sinai desert who later went on to Palestine, seems to be logically correct."
(e). Further attack on loose genre theory of Exodus: Nahum Sarna, "Israel in Egypt" in AI, p. 51: "The cumulative effect of several varied lines of approach tend to support the historicity of the slavery in Egypt, the reality of the migration from that country and the actuality of the subsequent Israelite penetration and control of much of Canaan. Had Israel really arisen in Canaan and never been enslaved in Egypt, a biblical writer would have had no reason to conceal that fact and could surely have devised an appropriate narrative to accommodate that reality were he given to fictional inventiveness. We are at a loss to explain the necessity of fabricating an uncomfortable and disreputable account of Israel's national origins, nor can we conceive how such a falsity could so pervade their national psyche as to eliminate all other traditions and historical memories, let alone be the dominant and controlling theme in the national religion."
Various added articles on Exodus:
(a) "Ancient Records and the Exodus Plagues", in BAR Nov/Dec. 1987, on text of Ipu-wer on plagues in Egypt.
(b)."Lachish-Key to the Israelite Conquest of Canaan?" BAR Jan/Feb. 1987. pp. 18ff.
(c)."Did I excavate Kadesh-Barnea?" by Rudolph Cohen, BAR May/June, 1981 pp. 21-33. --Uncertain if that is the site - if so, seems to have no remains of use by Israel during the desert period, when they stayed there a long time. Springs there are richest and most abundant in the Sinai, watering the largest oasis in N. Sinai. Many acres today of fruit and nut trees. Has remains of three ancient fortresses, earliest probably of time of Solomon. But if we put the wanderings in Midian there is no problem. Cf. report on views of Frank Moore above on p. 103.
(d) BAR Sept/Oct. 1988: three articles pp. 34 ff on Israelite origins.
(e) Charles R. Krahmalkov, "Exodus Itinerary Confirmed by Egyptian Evidence", in BAR, Sept/Oct. 1994, pp., 54 62, and 79. -- Shows that hieroglyphic inscriptions on the Temple of Amon at Karnak give lists of places, that fit remarkably with the Exodus itinerary in Scripture. A list there by Thutmoses III from Late Bronze Age I mentions Iyyin, Dibon, Abel and Jordan, all of which appear in Numbers 33, and in the same order as the list of Thutmoses III. A list by Ramesses II has Heres, Qarho (Dibon) Ikanu and Abel, which match some of the place names from Numbers 33. So the Israelite invasion route described in Numbers 33:45b - 50 shows an official, heavily traveled Egyptian road through the Transjordan in the Late Bronze Age. The City of Dibon was a station on that road at the time. Ramesses says he sacked Dibon. Also, the Mesha Stela from 9th century BC, records that King Mesha conquered Israelite territory east of the Jordan and humiliated the tribe of Gad. Among towns mentioned is Qarbo, seemingly Biblical Dibon, showing that a Dibon did exist then, even though remains have not yet been found there.
Problem Solving with Archaeology: (1) Kenneth, Kitchen, The Bible in Its World: The Bible and Archaeology Today, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL 1977, pp. 10-15: a) Notes that the mid-brick buildings of the ancient Near East could easily be gradually swept away by wind, sand and rain. b) Not always is a site completely excavated, for it is costly. For example, Ashdod covers about 70 acres of lower city area and another 20 acres of acropolis. By 1977 only 1 1/2 acres had been excavated. - Only 1/10 of the site of Et-Tell, which some think was Ai, had been excavated. - Only a small portion of Jericho had been excavated.
ADD: J. A. Callaway, in Ancient Israel, p. 61:"The kidney-shaped mound of ancient Jericho still has about 70 feet of occupation layers intact, dating from the earliest settlement, about 9000 B.C., beside the spring known today as Ain es-Sultan." And on p. 63:"At Ai... John Garstang excavated eight trenches in 1928. In 1931 he wrote that 'A considerable proportion of L. B. A. [Late Bronze Age I. ending about 1400 B.C. ]' wares were found, including 'A Cypriote wishbone handle' and that they were left 'in the collection of the American School (Now Albright Institute).' This pottery has never been found.... Thus nothing of Garstang's 'Late Bronze" evidence is available for a 'second opinion' of his interpretation."
c) Site shift is possible. Jericho was abandoned from Hellenistic times and moved to near the springs of Ain- Sultan, onto the site that became modern Jericho (Er-Riba). But in Hellenistic and Roman times, palaces and villas were constructed at still a third side nearby (Tulul Abu el-Alaiq). So today there are three Jerichos. - R. Brown (Recent Discoveries and The Biblical World Glazier, Wilmington, 1983, pp. 68-69 admits: "Aharoni, the excavator argues that in Canaanite times Arad was not at Tell Arad but at Tell el-Milh (Malhata) 7 miles southeast of Tell Arad, while Hormah was at Khirbet el-Meshash (Masos) 3 miles further west."
Conclusions from introduction to Genesis 12:
1. A survey of views on the period of patriarchs in general leads us to conclude there was a patriarchal period and an exodus. More details need added study.
2. There are two chief tendencies in dating the Exodus: c. 1446 and c. 1290. The problem is at present insoluble, but the evidence seems stronger for c. 1290.
CHAPTER 12: God's call of Abraham
Interior and exterior accounts: There are two ways of describing the same sequence of events:
Exterior account: Easter Preface ibid. IV; "In him a new age has dawned, the long reign of sin is ended, a broken world has been renewed and mankind is once again made whole." Christmas Preface: III: "God has become one with man, and man has become one again with Christ" Especially vivid is Mt 4.16: "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light" Here Mt is quoting Isaiah 9.2, a line just before the mysterious prophecy that the Messiah would be God the mighty. In Isaiah the darkness descended when Assyria took the northern kingdom in 721 BC. But Isaiah foretold the Messiah would be the great light to it - which came when Jesus made Capernaum as it were His headquarters. Before, that land had sat in darkness.
Interior account: God always loved mankind = willed our eternal happiness, and did not change from rage to love after Christ came. Rather, He always loved us, hence Christ came. He gave out graces abundantly before Christ had earned them, just as in the special instance of the Immaculate Conception.
Both: If we look at the exterior of the grand sweep of God's plans over centuries, in this land of Zebulon and Naphthali we see darkness until Christ came. But did God really leave them without light so that they went to eternal ruin? No, there was even then in their souls the interior light of grace, which was offered abundantly in anticipation of Christ. So they could be eternally saved (even though actual entrance into glory was deferred until Christ had died). Again, in the exterior view, there was the long reign of sin, until Christ came.
As we said, grace was interiorly given even before Christ, and it did really lead them to be saved, and even very holy. But how much at how early a period did they understand God's plan of eternal happiness? Gradually, and at first through temporal images, He led them to understanding.
Many exegetes think Israel did not know even of survival after death at first. But this is false, for three times in the OT He prohibited necromancy: Lev. 19.31; 20.6; Dt 8.11. The repetition shows their determination to believe necromancy, which included survival after death. But there is still a second question: how early did they know of retribution, reward and punishment after death? There are a few stray verses in the Psalms that could mean an early understanding. But they are unclear, and Psalm 72 expresses the common attitude: I was distressed at the prosperity of sinners, until I came into the temple, and saw their punishment.
It was at the time of Antiochus IV of Syria, c 170 BC that terrible deaths of the martyrs forced an agonizing reappraisal, and, at the same time, contact with Greek thought showed a way out, for although the Greek concept of soul-body was not fully correct, yet it did open the way to see. Even so, not all Jews saw, for at the time of Jesus the Sadducees strongly rejected even survival. But the Pharisees and their followers -- much more numerous -- did see and believe in survival and reward.
The Election of Israel was part of the problem. At first they surely thought it meant only temporal favor. Much later they came to see more, but what did they think of gentiles? Rabbis at the time of Christ thought all Israel was saved eternally even the am ha'aretz, except for some very horrid sinners. But gentiles were lost.
What a tragic picture of God -- as if He cared only for Jews: "Love your neighbor" to them meant only other Jews. In contrast, Jesus revealed everyone is our neighbor. And St. Paul in Rom 3.29 asked: "Is He the God of the Jews only? No, He is also the God of the gentiles." If He had made salvation depend on Mosaic laws, He would have acted as if He cared only for Jews. Paul insists rightly that God provided for All, by justification by faith. In Romans 5.8 Paul insists that God proved His love: Since He in love willed our eternal happiness, He did not let even the immeasurable obstacle of the terrible death of Christ deter Him. And after that, Paul goes on: since He did that when we were sinners: what could or would He withhold now?
Centuries earlier, the prophetic eye of Isaiah (63.16) saw that "even if Abraham should not know us, you, O God, are our redeemer" and Is 49.15)"Can a Mother forget the child of her womb? Even if she should I will not forget you.
Even the Christian Fathers of the Church failed to see clearly the distinction between election or predestination to heaven and election or predestination to full membership in the Church. However, absolutely every Eastern Father to the last man, and nearly all the Western Fathers as well, did see clearly that God does not desert (reprobate from heaven) anyone without grave personal fault. This could imply that He predestines to heaven without merit-which is true (implied in the fact that God is our Father who gives love and care without merit, but can punish faults)--- but no one until modern times found out the way to make the two points fit together, i.e., predestination to heaven without merits, and the fact that God deserts no one without grave personal sin.
First promise to Abraham and his faith:
When Abram was 75 years old, God spoke to him when he was in Haran, a land that worshipped many gods. He had come with his father Terah from Ur, at the north end of the Persian Gulf. At that time there was an artistic and advanced civilization at Ur which today has been excavated.
God told Abram to leave his land and his people and go to the place He would show him. The Canaanites were in the land at that time. Abram became a nomad in it at an advanced age.
We need to observe carefully now, for St. Paul builds so much on the faith of Abraham, in Romans 4 and Gal. 3. In St. Paul there are three things included in faith: belief, confidence, and especially obedience. Paul even speaks of the obedience that is faith (Rom. 1.5). Even a major Protestant reference work agrees on this Pauline picture of faith: Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Supplement, p. 333.
We easily see all these things in Abraham, and more than once. In confidence He believed God and obeyed, to go into a land he knew not: Hebrews 11.18,"by faith he obeyed... and went out, not knowing where he was going."
God in v. 2 promised He would make Abram a great nation. A bit later, in 15:4-6, God made His promise more specific. Abram obeyed, and, "It was counted to him as justification." But, St. Paul carefully notes that all this happened before Abram had a law to obey (Gen 17) to earn justification.
Since Abram obeyed and was made just even before he had a law to obey, St. Paul concludes that Abram was justified by faith alone, without works: Rom 4.1-3.
Something remarkable emerges now: faith on the one hand includes obedience and faith made Abram just, yet Abram was justified without works, even obedience, though he did as God had commanded, in the obedience that is faith. We see that obedience in acting is required, yet obedience as such does not earn justification.
So on the one hand the obedience of faith is needed to be just; on the other hand that faith does not earn justification. It is a condition. When it is present God gladly grants justification (which is the state of grace [1 Cor 13.12], giving the basic ability to see God face to face in the next life. "Without faith it is impossible to please God (as Hebrews 11.6 says).
Failure to see either half of this picture (namely that obedience as part of faith is required, but obedience does not earn) has historically led to the most huge errors. So, violating the obedience of faith leads to loss of justification. Luther, sadly, saw that obedience does not earn, but did not see that obedience as part of faith is required. What he would call "faith", without obedience, warranted, he thought, disobedience even to 1000 times a day. By faith Luther meant merely confidence that the merits of Christ applied to him.
Abram became just before Abraham had a law. So justification was to be by faith -- but not in the foolish sense of just believing the merits of Christ apply to me, so that I am then free as Luther claimed to disobey and "commit murder and fornication 1000 times a day." (Works. American Ed., 48, 282) Rather, obedience is an essential part and characteristic of faith. Again, this does not mean that obedience earns justification: but without faith no one can please God as Hebrews says.
Still further: In becoming just by faith, Abraham really was a member, or rather the father, of God's people-- which was to be declared formally later in chapter 15 where God in an impressive ceremony makes a pact with Abraham, the pact of circumcision. In 12.3 God expressed Abraham's fatherhood by saying "All the nations of the earth will be blessed through you" (the translation is ambiguous: It could be "will bless themselves through you" We follow St. Paul's interpretation given in Gal. 3.8-9. In which all become Abraham's children by imitating his faith).
We must add this too: Paul in Romans 3.29 insists God makes salvation open to all, not just to those who formally join the people of God. All that is needed for them to be members is to imitate the faith of Abraham: they perceive what the Spirit writes on their hearts (Rom 2.15) they believe, they have confidence, and they obey in the "obedience of faith" (cf. Rom. 1.5). They need not be aware that this makes them members of the people of God. These of course are the three elements of Pauline faith. By this route St. Justin Martyr (Apology 1. 46;2. 10) could say Socrates centuries before Christ was Christian and further, according to Rom 8.9, those who thus follow the Spirit of Christ in this way belong to Christ, are His members and so have a membership in His church - not formally, but substantially. This is like what Pope John Paul II wrote in his Encyclical on the Missions §10 that there is a "mysterious grace" which does not make a man "formally" a member of the church, but yet does so substantially. (Socrates according to Plato said many times that one who wishes to follow the truth must have as little as possible to do with the things of the body: cf. Plato, Phaedo 65, 66, 82-83).
We notice further that St. Paul says God must have made salvation really accessible to those who never heard of the Mosaic law. Now it must be realistically accessible --if the faith required had to include formal acceptance of the Judaism/Christianity, then it would be unrealistic.
We are thinking of the teeming millions in lands where Christ is not known. Can they be members of His people without knowing that they're doing so? But yet. It would be enough if the person perceived, not necessarily clearly, that "this is what I should do" without knowing the God who commanded formally. It would be enough to perceive interiorly with the help of grace the obligation, to believe, to have confidence, and actually obey. Thus Vatican II in LG 16 said salvation is able to be had by those who "follow the moral law known interiorly to them with the help of grace." (We underline is able to since the Flannery version says may be saved-- as if there is merely some chance. Latin has possunt).
12.3: God promised Abraham all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him. Some versions give "will bless themselves through you" as if to say: will say: May you be blessed like Abraham" But we are following St. Paul's understanding as in Gal. 3.8 which means all who follow the faith of Abraham will be blessed as Abraham was. They will be members of the people of God.
12.10: Abram goes to Egypt: Soon because of a famine, Abram decided to go to Egypt. As he was entering the land, he said to his wife Sarai: I know that you are beautiful, and the king's men may take you to him, and if they think you are my sister, they will kill me. -Technically that was within the range of meanings of the Hebrew word for sister, since it could cover a wide range of relatives, and she was the sister of his father.
All happened as Abram had foreseen. The Pharaoh was very pleased, and sent Abram many royal presents, so that he became rich. But then we find in Gen 12.17-20 that God struck Pharaoh and his house with severe plagues since he had the wife of another. So Pharaoh told Abram: Why did you not tell me she was your wife. Take her and go! (two parallel incidents were to come in 20. 1-7 and 16. 1-11. Many think they are doublets, but they are much influenced by a belief in the probably mistaken Documentary Theory of which we spoke in the introduction to Genesis).
But there is something of immense theological importance here, which many commentators neglect. All of Chapter 4 of Leviticus speaks of sheggagah, involuntary sin. If a man violates a law of God without knowing he is doing so, The Holiness of God wants the damaged moral order restored.
The commentary on Lev. 4 in NJBC (p. 64) correctly says this, that sin was a violation of the covenant relationship, whether voluntary or involuntary, and any departure therefrom disturbed the right order of things. This means that the Holiness of God-- the quality in virtue of which He loves all that is morally right, and if that order is disturbed even involuntarily, His Holiness wants it set right again. Hence Lev 4 calls for a sacrifice to be offered to make up for the sheggagah.
Now it is true that the Hebrew word for sister is very broad, and can cover this case. Sarai was the sister of the father of Abram. But God will not let mere linguistic ambiguity rule things: He wants reality. And the reality was that Pharaoh, though in good faith, was involved in adultery.
This was not just an odd case in the Old Testament. We find the same principle widely in the OT, Intertestamental Literature, Rabbinic writings, and Patristic literature. For a large study on this please see Wm. Most, The Thought of St. Paul, appendix, pp. 289-301.
For example, we read in Ps. 19.12-13 (still in use in the Liturgy): "Who can detect failings? Cleanse me from my unknown faults." In the Gospel, on the lips of Jesus Himself, we read in Lk. 12-47-48 that the slave who knew his master's will but did not fulfill it, would receive a severe beating. But the slave who did not know the master's will, but yet did things objectively calling for penalty would get off with fewer blows.
In 1 Cor. 4.4 St. Paul told the Corinthians: "I do not have anything on my conscience, but that does not mean I am justified." He meant he might have committed a violation unwittingly. A. Buchler explains (Studies in Sin and Atonement in the Rabbinic Literature of the First Century [KTAV, NY 1967, p, 425]) that the pious men of that day used to bring a doubtful sin offering daily in case they might have sinned unwitting. They were going beyond he rules of Lev. 4, but still showed a keen perception of the principle involved.
In the First Epistle of Pope Clement, I 2-3, (c 95 AD) we find: "You stretched out your hands to Almighty God beseeching Him to be propitious if you had sinned at all unwillingly".
In the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, still much in use today, there is a prayer: "Forgive us every offense, both voluntary and involuntary."
The same idea is well expressed by Rabbi Simeon ben Elezzar (Tosefta, Kiddushin 1. 14--c. 170 AD, citing earlier Rabbi Meir) "He has committed a transgression. Woe to him! He has tipped the scales to the side of debt [hobah] for himself and for the world." Hobah is found much in Intertestamental Literature. Its first meaning is debt -- all sin is a debt which the Holiness of God wants rebalanced. Then it meant sin.
Pope Paul VI, in Indulgentiarum Doctrina, Jan. 1, 1967, beautifully explained that for complete make-up after sin, in addition to restoring friendship with God. there is need that "all the goods, both individual and social, and those that belong to the universal order, lessened or destroyed by sin, be fully reestablished either through voluntary reparation... or through the suffering of penalties."
We are now so far from the dreadful error of him who said that if one once "takes Christ as his personal Savior", then even if he commits murder and fornication 1000 times a day, it will not separate him from the Lamb. (Luther's Works, American Edition, 48.282).
We marvel at the concern of God for all Holiness, when He insists that even involuntary faults, sheggagah, be rebalanced in Lev. 4. But then we read in St. Paul, Romans 3.25-26 (On the sense, cf. W. Most, The Thought of St. Paul, appendix, with special reference to "the justice of God" in Rom 1.17) that all up to Christ was a time of "passing over" sins, even though there were these corrections even for sheggagah, and more dramatic open punishments as well. But the enormity of even one mortal sin is so great (Cf. Heb 10.29; 6.6; and Gal 2.20)--and of all sins of all ages so great - that even though any act whatsoever of God-made-man was able to generate infinite reparation and merit, yet the Father willed that His Only Son, who had dreaded it all His life long (cf. Lk 12.50; Jn 12.25) should in a sweat of blood in Gethsemani beg to stop there -- it was already infinite in worth -- yet the Father pressed on.
This was the full, the infinite rebalance of the objective order to which the previous ages had looked forward especially in Isaiah 53. It was called for even though, as we said, the satisfaction of the incarnation itself alone was infinite, yet the Father wanted by this dread divine pedagogy to teach us the horror of sin.
Let us put aside the blasphemous nightmare that pictures the Son as in horror at the anger of the Father finally loosed on Him! How unworthy of the Holiness of God to punish His infinitely Innocent Son! No, it was this rebalance of which we have been speaking that was wanted by the Holiness of the Father, and accepted by the Son even in the face of such repugnance, so that He gave up far more than all sinners of all ages had unlawfully taken from balance of the right order. "Him who did not know sin, He made to be sin for us (2 Cor 5.21)"! How then could the Father, and such a Son, be indifferent if those who are to be "fellow-heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him, so we may also be glorified with Him" (Rom 8. 17) --how could He say: It makes no difference if you commit murder and fornication a thousand times a day, it will not separate you from the Lamb even while making a soul supremely unlike the Lamb.
CHAPTER 13: Abraham and Lot separate: After Abram came back from Egypt he was very rich and Lot also was rich. A quarrel arose between Abram's shepherd's and Lot's. Abram then offered Lot the choice of the region of the Jordan valley or Canaan. Lot went toward Sodom where the men were very sinful, as we shall see in chapter 19.
CHAPTER 14: The kings and Lot: Here we suddenly find ourselves in the days of "Amraphel king of Shinar" [that is Babylon] Arioch king of Elasar, Chedarlaomer, king of Elam, and Tidal, king of Goim. These four kings fought with five kings: Bera of Sodom, Borsa of Gomorrah, Shinab of Admah, Shemeber of Zeboim, and the king of Bela ("that is Zoar").
We meet what seems to be Hebrew concentric ring narrative: The kings gather in verses 3-7 and then again in verses 8 - 12. both times in the Valley of Siddim ("that is the Salt Sea"). In the first ring we read that the 5 kings of the south had served Chededolaomer and the northern group, 12 years but in the 13th year the southern kings rebelled against the northern kings. The four from the north subdued several peoples: the Rephaim, the Zuzim and Emim. They also subdued the people of Amalek and the Amorites. Then in the second ring the kings meet again. The 4 northern kings subdued the 5 southern kings, and also took Lot son of Abram's brother.
When he learned this, Abram gathered the fighting men he had in his household, 318 of them, and rescued Lot After this he meets Melchizedek.
Clearly we need to ask what is the genre? It definitely seems much different from the ancient stories used to convey truths that we met in the first eleven chapters. This seems more like an old chronicle. We note some odd features: No name is given for the last of the southern kings. He is just called king of Bela (and the explanation is given that Bela ia Zoar, which might not be known to a later time). Also, among the northern kings, Tidal is called King of the Goiim -- But Goiim means merely the gentiles, non-Jews. From these things it seems the writer lacked part of the facts. Were he making up a story he would have invented names.
Much research has been made to identify some of the kings. Chedorlaomer is clearly a good Elamite name, and he is called an Elamite king. Most tempting is Amraphel King of Shinar. Shinar was an early name for Babylonia; the founder of that Babylonian dynasty was Hammurabi, well known to us for his law code. If we could equate Amraphel and Hammurabi we could have great help in dating Abraham to late 18th century. Early in the 20th century some articles did make that identification. Today it has little favor. Yet it is possible. The transposition of ra and ar is known between Greek harpazo and Latin rapio, seize. As to the last letters, the Sumerian cuneiform provides quite a bit of ambiguity: bil = pil, especially in dialectic pronunciation. The quarrel was probably over the caravan route -- many of the place names would fit it
For certain, Abraham shows great faith in God here, confronting several powerful kings with only 318 men.
Melchizedek: On his return the King of Sodom met him and suggested Abraham keep the goods, but give him the people. Abraham refused to keep anything, seemingly because of an oath he had taken when Melchizedek, king of Salem, met him. Melchizedek brought out bread and wine. Later Christian writers understood it as a sacrifice.
His name is taken to mean either King of Peace (Salem -Heb 7.2-3) or King of righteousness (sedeq).
Abraham gave him a tenth of all the spoils of the military expedition.
Melchizedek is described in Hebrews as without father or mother, without genealogy. Genesis indeed does not give any lineage for him. Thus he foreshadows the Son of God, a priest forever.
Then the author of Hebrews exclaims: How great is Melchizedek - Abraham gave him tithes, recognizing his superiority. The descendants of Levi received tithes too in later times, as the offspring of Abraham. Yet Melchizedek, who has not the same genealogy as them, received tithes from the father of the chosen people, Abraham. Further, Abraham received a blessing from Melchizedek - but one receives blessings only from a superior, not from an inferior. So again, Melchizedek, type of Christ, is superior to Abraham.
In fact since Levi who was to come from Abraham, was still in the body of Abraham, we can say that Levi too paid tithes to Melchizedek - and so the levitical priesthood is less than that of Melchizedek.
Melchizedek too is considered still "alive" since there is no record of his genealogy, birth, or death. This again foreshadows the priesthood of the Son of God.
In what the editor of Biblical Archaeology Review of March-April, 1995, p. 56) calls, "an extraordinary demonstration... a highly sophisticated analysis", Kenneth Kitchen of the University of Liverpool shows that what we know of the early second millennium fits well with the kinds of alliances of kings described in Genesis 14, while from about the 18th century B.C. on the situation changed so drastically that such alliances would hardly occur (BAR pp. 56-57).
The author of Hebrews, hardly meant to claim Melchizedek had no father or mother or was without end of days. This is a looseness proper to homiletic genre. Also, he is interested in treating Melchizedek as a type, a foreshadowing of Jesus. (incidentally, in the early centuries A.D. some writers, since Melchizedek had no father or mother, assumed he was an angelic power, greater than all others: cf. Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies 7. 36 [written before 222 AD] and St. Epiphanius, Panarion 55). As we said above, the idea that Melchizedek should be greater than Abraham was irksome to Jewish exegetes, and they also disliked the Christian use of Melchizedek and reacted as we saw above, in comments on chapter 5.
In Heb 7.8 Melchizedek is "attested as being alive" since we never read of him in Scripture as dead: without father, without mother, without end of days. In line with this, in v. 9 the author speaks of Levi, the father of the great priestly line, as paying tithes to Abraham, even though this was long before the birth of Levi - for he was "still... in the body of his forefather" Abraham. The same sort of concept appears in Genesis 25.23 when God replied to Rebekah before the twins, Esau and Jacob were born: "Two nations are in your womb." Cf. also the version of Romans 5.12 used by the Latin Fathers; "In whom [Adam] omnes peccaverunt" - "In whom all have sinned."
15.9-17: Pact with Abraham: To impress the pact God used a remarkable ceremony. He had Abram bring several animals, and cut them in two. Then with Abram in a deep darkness, God caused a flaming torch to pass between the pieces. Then God solemnly renewed the pact. This seems to have been the origin of the expression "to cut a covenant". (In Classical Greek there was a similar expression, orkia temnein and in Latin foedus ferire or percutere--Cf. Livy 1.24) In Jer 34.17-22 the prophet at command a God used a similar ceremony to stress the force of the pact.
15.16: Filling up the measure of sin: In the last words of the above mentioned promise to Abraham, God said that his descendants would come back to the land, but not until the 4th generation "for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." God as the absolute Master did not need to wait. Even without sin He could transfer land from one to another. Actually grave sin was at hand in the Amorites. It really deserved such a penalty. But the Holiness of God is pleased to make all as full as possible. In the I. Summa 19.5. c we read that God likes to have one thing in place to serve as the reason for giving the second, even though the first does not move Him.
This theme of filling up the measure appears in many places. Especially clear is 2 Mac 6 where the writer meditates: With other people, God lets them fill up the measure of their sins. But with us, He corrects us as we go along--now with the persecution of ?Aniochus. We are grateful that He does this so we will not need to be involved in final ruin.
In 1 Thes 2.15-16 Paul says of the Jews who were persecuting him that they now are the ones who are filling up the measure of their sins: the anger of God had come upon them eis telos: either to the end, or most fully. On his travels, Paul first preached in the synagogue. There he got few converts, often persecution instead. In Acts 14 Jews came after Paul who had cured a man in Lystra--they had pursed him from Antioch in Pisidia and Iconium. They stoned him and left him for dead.
The rabbis taught that if a man has no suffering in this life, it may be that God is paying him in this world for the little good he has done, so He may most fully bring him to ruin in the next (cf. quotations in W. Most The Thought of St. Paul, appendix).
Before the end, Jesus predicts in Mt 24.12: "Since sin will reach its fullness, the love of most people will grow cold." This is to be the great apostasy of Lk 18.8: "When the Son of Man comes, do you think He will find faith on the earth?" Cf. also 2 Timothy 3.1. ff.
In all this we see God's supreme Holiness rewarding most fully, giving even the wicked every opportunity before they fully reach the limit.
We should add on the favorable side: God's desire for all goodness means that not only are the teeming millions given a chance for salvation: even high perfection was open to them if they followed grace. The grace would be in anticipation of Christ - but God did anticipate in the magnificent sanctity of the Immaculate Conception. Indeed, some of these outsiders do seem to have been heroic, such as Socrates who wrote several times through Plato that the one who seeks truth should have as little as possible to do with the things of the body. His mental perception of the One he sought may have been dim; yet his will in seeking was immense. (St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote in his Life of Moses that "the true vision of the One we seek consists in this: in not seeing. For the One Sought is beyond all knowledge, "the One we seek is beyond all seeing" - in this life. And Origen in his Homily on Numbers 16 wrote: "Since God wants grace to abound, He sees fit to be present.... He is present not to the [pagan] sacrifices but to the one who comes to meet Him, and there he gives His word [seemingly meaning: His Logos])." Again In Lk 11.25-26 Jesus Himself in the Holy Spirit gave thanks to the Father "who had hidden things from the learned and clever and revealed them to the little ones." For what does it profit a man to be able to recite precise theological formulas if he does not penetrate more deeply to the One who is sought? Some illiterate lay religious have known God better than the Doctors of theology. Origen of course did not mean God accepts pagan sacrifices, but he did mean that God welcomes the good will at times found in the one who offers--that is, if his interior attitudes amount to Pauline faith: belief. confidence and obedience to the will of God as he knows it with the help of grace (cf. LG 16).
CHAPTER 16: Abraham & Hagar: When Abram was getting old, and had no son to be his heir, his wife Sarai who has sterile, gave him her Egyptian maid, Hagar to bear a son for him. This was in accord with common practice, as found in the Code Of Hammurabi. In this day of polygamy this was not out of line.
Then Hagar being pregnant, ridiculed Sarai. Abram said: Behold your maid is in your power. Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar and she fled into the desert. An angel there spoke to her, and said she should return and be submissive and she would have a son Ishmael, and through him she would be the ancestor of a great multitude.
The incident is amplified in Genesis 21 and in Gal 4.
Abram was 86 at this time.
CHAPTER 17:Circumcision: God spoke to Abraham and ordered circumcision of all males on the 8th day after birth, as a sign of belonging to God's people.
It was in widespread use: Egyptians, Edomites, Ammonites, Moabites, inhabitants of Arabian desert, and Ethiopians But was not found among the Assyrians, Elamites, Sidonians. Cf. Herodotus
It was done among some peoples at puberty or only as a hygienic measure. Among the Israelites, it was a sign of the covenant with God, and as such was sacred: especially since it affected an organ which was the source of life in giving which man cooperated with God.
It was of course done only on males. Yet theologians are convinced that then God did provide a means of salvation for females as well: III. 70. 4. c. for the females still belonged to the people of God, and that was sufficient for salvation.
At first there seems to have been no thought of eternal final salvation: that developed later. To Abraham God spoke only of the land and other blessings. But by the time of Christ it was held that all Israel, except the most terrible sinners, were saved in the world to come. But all others, the gentiles, were lost.
Such was the common belief in St. Paul's day. Yet in 1 Cor 7.14 Paul says that if a couple married while pagans, and then one became christian, the marriage would stand if they could live peacefully. but if not, then it was dissolved. In v. 14 Paul says the unbeliever is made holy by the union. Otherwise the children would be unclean: but they are clean, hagia. The word Paul uses, hagiazo, did not mean to make high in moral perfection, but becoming a member of the people of God. The word hagios in Paul at the start of his Epistles means member of the People of God. Did Paul mean that those who become and remain members of the people of God are saved --was he thinking of the older or the later sense? He surely did not mean they could sin mortally a thousand times a day. But if they did not commit a sin such as to merit ejection from the people --cf. the OT cases--then they would be saved at the end.
The theological implication is important: the one party of the marriage, in becoming Christian, becomes a member of the People of God. Of course he does not lose that status if he continues in the marriage - rather the pagan partner becomes hagios, comes under the covenant-- a member of the people of God. And even the children become members.
To be a member of the people implied having God's favor, or grace. We recall that Hebrew hen meant both favor and what God gives as a result of His favor. Favor does not mean just as it were sitting there and smiling: it meant giving something. That something was first thought of as hokma or beraka -- wisdom or blessing. Later, through NT Greek charis, the concept was broadened: anything thing God gives as a result of His favor. That of course is grace. So becoming a member under the covenant meant receiving sanctifying grace. Whatever would cause a man to be cast out of the covenant would be grave sin, causing loss of sanctifying grace.
But to remain with the pagan marriage partner was no sin, rather Paul prefers it if they can live in peace.
In line with this thought is the fact that if someone preparing for Baptism dies before the sacrament, the Church considers that its desire counts for the sacrament. St. Thomas, Summa II. 68.2: "... when someone desires to be baptized, but by some chance death comes before he receives baptism, such a one without actual baptism can attain salvation because of the desire of baptism." The Council of Trent teaches the same: DS 1524.
This in turn makes us think of the children in the marriages with one parent pagan. What then of children of Catholic parents who die before Baptism? They surely should not have less.
What then of an unbaptized baby coming from both pagan parents? We saw above that one or both of such parents could become members of the people of God, without knowing that fact. So a parent or parents of such babies it seems would be in the same status we have just described.
If we go out still further beyond this case we still say God's hands are not bound by the Sacraments - He gave grace abundantly even before Christ, in anticipation of His merits. And His Holiness was and is intent on rebalancing the objective moral order if it is violated even innocently (sheggagah). We know clearly some cases in which He does that rebalance for violations of the merely physical order- e.g. the rich man who was told, not that he had sinned against charity and justice (true) but that Lazarus once had it bad, the rich man good - now is the time to reverse. Similarly the woes in St. Luke's version of the sermon on the plain all mention only physical reverse.
Finally, theologians believe that before Christ God provided for people who did not have the old law -- now with Christ things cannot be worse. Rather. Paul insists over and over in Rom 5 that the redemption is more abundant than the fall.
CHAPTER 18: Three men come to Abraham at Mamre: Abraham was sitting at the door of his tent in the heat of the day when three men came. Abraham saw three, adored one, as St. Hilary said. Many of the Fathers saw in this scene a foreshadowing of the Holy Trinity. From 19.1 it is clear that two of them were angels.
Abraham at once prepared a fine banquet for them. The Lord then told Abraham at next year in the spring he would have a son by Sarah, who was 90 and sterile. Sarah laughed to herself, then tried to deny she had laughed. But God insisted she had laughed.
Then they set out for Sodom. The Lord asks Himself: "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am going to do? I have chosen him that he may charge his whole household to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that (le maan) the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has promised." It seems that God makes the fulfillment of His promise (lemaan) depend on Abraham's fulfillment of His commands--and He is confident Abraham will do it so that, in order that (lemaan) He may carry out His promises. A case again of God's love of good order, cf. I. 19.5. c. almost as if God could not fulfill His promise without that condition.
In a strong example of anthropomorphism God says He has heard such bad things about Sodom that He must go and see for Himself. Abraham asks if God would spare the city for 50 just men -- and he then "Jews" God down to ten. But not even ten are to be found there.
God destroys Sodom:
In 13.13 we first read that the men of Sodom were very sinful. What that was becomes clear in chapter 19 when two angels in human guise visit Lot. The men of Sodom surround the house, demanding sex with them. Lot offered his two daughters instead-- very loose morals then- but the Sodomites insisted. The angels struck them blind. Later in chapter 19 God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
Homosexuals today try to claim the sin of Sodom was lack of hospitality. But there is nothing in the text to support that. Lot had offered the men hospitality and even the use of his daughters. And if we check the OT and Intertestamental literature, all becomes very clear.
In Lev. 18:22: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination." And 20:13: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death."
In 2 Kgs. 23:27: King Josiah destroyed the houses of the male cult prostitutes. Cf. also I Kgs 14:24; 15:12; 22:46 and Wisdom 14:26.
In the New Testament
1 Cor 6:9-10:"Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolators, nor the effeminate, nor those who lie with males... will inherit the kingdom of God."
Romans 1:26-27: "For this reason God handed them over to dishonorable passions, and their women exchanged their natural use for the unnatural. And similarly the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned with desire for one another, males working impropriety on males, and receiving in themselves the pay which was proper for their wandering." The last part of Romans 1 describes many stages of descent into moral corruption. The centerpiece is homosexuality, and in the last verse of the chapter, Paul says that they who once knew that they who do such things deserve death, but they even in blindness approve of those who do them" [translating the aorist participle epignontes as past, as required by context; for no one could at one and he same time know a thing deserved death and yet praise those who do it. Sadly that is what homosexuals do today.]
Again in 1 Tim 1:9-10: "Knowing this, that the law is not there for the righteous man, but for lawless ones... sexually loose, those who lie with males...." Finally in Jude7:"Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire."
The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha show clearly how the ancient Jews understood the sin of Sodom. (Texts from Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha I) In 2 Enoch 10.4 [Slavonic Aapocayple] Enoch is shown a place of punishment God has prepared from those who practice on earth the sin which is against nature, which is child corruption in the anus in the manner of Sodom...." More of same thought in 34.2 which tells Enoch that all the world will be reduced to confusion by iniquities and wickednesses and abominable fornications that is, friend with friend in the anus...."
Sibyllines II. 73 (part of Extract from Pseudo-Phocylides--latter in Charlesworth II. pp. 565-82. Editor there, P. W. Van der Horst, on pp. 567-68 favors date 50 BC -100 AD, and probably by an Alexandrian Jew. ):"Do not practice homosexuality". (From Ch. I. 347)
Sibyllines III. 597, Ch. I. 375. Prob. date 163-45BC. Prob. Alexandrian Jewish. "They [Jews] do not engage in impious intercourse with male children."
Sibyllines IV. 34. Ch. I. 384-85. Probably from Hellenistic age, updated by a Jew in late first century AD. No sign of Christian redaction in it. "Neither have they [the righteous] disgraceful desire for another's spouse, or for hateful and repulsive abuse of a male."
Sibyllines V. 167. Ch. I. 397. Between 70 & 132 AD. Christian redaction of this section unlikely. "With you [Rome] are found adulteries and illicit intercourse with boys."(Cf. ibid. lines 386 & 430).
Addendum on medical data:
1. Journal of the American Medical Association 1984. 251. 237-41, comments that the vagina has a multiple layer of epithelium, so that it is designed for repeated penetration, while the anus has only a single layer. Adds that the use of the anus expedites the development of antibodies in the blood, which can impair the immune system.
2. Same article, p. 241 reports that a study of monogamous, i.e., not promiscuous--- homosexuals showed that three-fourth of the passive partners showed sperm induced immune dysregulation.
3. Science magazine, 1984. 224. 390-92 reports that rectal insemination of rabbits altered their immune responses, even without addition of the AIDS virus.
CHAPTER 19: Destruction of Sodom: Abraham had returned to his own place. Lot was sitting at the door of his home in Sodom, and the two angels, in human form, came to him. He at once offered them hospitality; they at first said they would sleep in the street, but he prevailed on them to come in. Shortly all the men of Sodom came to the door, demanding to have sex with the two angels in form of men. Lot refused, offered them instead his two virgin daughters. In the sexual looseness of he day and place this was not surprising. (There is a similar incident in the book of Judges 19, In which an old man takes in another man and his servant. While he is there the men of the city demand sex with the visitor, which the old man refuses, but gives them a concubine and his virgin daughter. The concubine was found dead next morning.)
But the angels struck the Sodomites blind and they could not find the door. They then told Lot God would destroy the city, Lot should come with his relatives to a safe place. Lot at first refused, but they pressed him, and obtained that they should spare a small place near there, Zoar. The angels warned them not to look back. Lot's wife did, and was turned to a pillar of salt. Even today near the Dead Sea from erosion there are some formations resembling a human being.
In the next morning Abraham went out and looked in that direction and saw the smoke still rising.
Lot, fearing to live in Zoar, went to live in a cave nearby with his two daughters. These two seeing their father would have no descendants, gave him a lot of wine on two evenings, then slept with him. As a result they bore sons, one called Moab, the Ben Ammi who became the ancestors of the Moabites and Ammonites later. Genesis does not excuse their incest, merely reports it.
What is the genre of this little incident? It seems to resemble that of the little stories we saw in chapters 1-11, and serves to account for the names of eponymous ancestors who later could be called low born.
CHAPTER 20: Abraham and Abimelech of Gerar: Here again Abraham continues to speak of Sarah as his sister. Abimelech the king took her, but had no relations with her. God spoke to Abimelech in a dream warning him against such a thing. Abimelech told God he had heard she was Abraham's sister, but God insisted and threatened punishment., calling Abraham a prophet, a nabi, friend of God.
The next morning Abimelech called his servant and Abraham and gave back Sarach, and many rich presents of cattle and slaves besides. Abraham said he had called her his sister because there was no fear of God in that place. Many scholars, especially those who hold for the Documentary theory, think this episode is only a doublet of the case of Abraham and Pharaoh. This seems unsuitable: the details are so radically different. Instead of punishing Abimelech, God warned him in time. He also said He would have punished the whole household of Abimelech. Abimelech also gave Sarah 1000 silver pieces, either to justify his conduct in the eyes of outsiders, or as a compensation. He also invited Abraham to dwell anywhere in that area. Abraham then prayed to God for Abimelech and God withdrew the closing of the wombs of his whole household. So there is no solid reason for considering the episode as a doublet.
Gerar was a bit south of Gaza in Philistine territory.
CHAPTER 21: Isaac is weaned, and Hagar is driven out. The well of Beersheba: As the Lord had promised, Sarah did have a son Isaac. When Isaac was weaned, Abraham gave a great feast.
Isaac was conceived only by special intervention of God, from a sterile mother. The same pattern occurs several more times in Scripture. St. Augustine wisely notes that this signifies that not mere nature but divine intervention will bring children to the People of God. After that Sarah was displeased to still see Hagar and her son there. She asked Abraham to cast them out. That was cruel, it really meant death. Genesis merely records it, without approving it. But Abraham did it. He gave them one skin of water and some bread, and sent them into the wilderness. When these were used up, Hagar stayed a short distance away, not wanting to see the boy die. But the boy cried to God, who heard him, and God promised He would make him into a great nation. He also gave them a well of water. The child grew up and became an expert bowman. His mother got for him an Egyptian wife.
Then Abimelech asked Abraham to swear he would be loyal as Abimelech had been loyal.
Later Abraham complained to Abimelech that the latter's servants had seized a well he had dug. Abimelech and Abraham then made a covenant with each other, using the animal ceremony we saw above in chapter 15. Abimelech and Phicol his army commander left then, and Abraham dwelt for sometime in the land near Beersheba.
CHAPTER 22: The sacrifice of Isaac: God called Abraham again, and this time ordered him to offer his dear son Isaac as a holocaust on a mountain which He would point out to him.
Human sacrifice was known among other nearby peoples, but not officially among the Jews, though some Jews especially later, did sacrifice their children. Yet Abraham without hesitation did start out. He might well have said: I know you told me and I must believe I will be the father of a great people through Isaac - but now you order me to kill him in sacrifice before the promise can begin to be realized.
Genesis gives no hint of the age of Isaac at this point. Josephus, Antiquities 1.13 says Isaac was 35. He has Isaac give a generous speech of acceptance before walking to the altar. Some later rabbis suggested rather late figures. The Epistle to the Hebrews (11.17-19) says Abraham believed God could raised up Isaac from the dead. The fact that Hebrews says this is not conclusive, for it is clear that the genre of Hebrews is homiletic, which easily includes a fanciful thought. The OT gives no mention of a resurrection so early.
It seems more likely that Isaac was too young to have children by this time. This is a magnificent instance of the faith of Abraham - he believed God, he had confidence in Him, He obeyed.
This was a faith that worked in the dark, that is, God put Abraham into a position where it seemed impossible to obey without giving up faith in the early promise. Many times in the Scriptures God does put people in the dark, insisting on something that is impossible. It is not that God is pleased with difficulty as such. Rather, faith given when it seems impossible to believe, to be confident, to obey- - in it the exertion of human will is at the maximum. For our only free power is the will: If we could make it match he will of God even when that seems impossible, then there is either a tremendous act of will/faith or there is a failure and refusal.
Among other examples in Scripture: Jesus at Cana seemed to refuse, for that was the usual tone of "What is it to me and to you" It commonly did have that color. Even though she as full of grace, she could grow by ever greater adherence of her will to His. He did it again to her when He told the crows: Who is my Mother....? He did it to followers and Apostles when He promised the Eucharist, seeming to insist on drinking blood, which was forbidden, or backbiting. But He turned to the Apostles: Will you go too? Peter's faith was splendid: To whom shall we go? And of course when Our Lady stood in the blackness of Calvary before a terrible failure as it seemed, and was called upon by the Father to even will it in union with His will-- for she knew too well that the Father willed He die, die then, die so horribly. -- that was her participation in the redemption by the obedience of faith, the condition of the New Covenant along with His; and by obedience as that interior which gave value to the sacrifice.
The Targum on Isaiah 53, the prophecy of His obedient Passion was shamefully distorted by later Jews when they saw Christians appealing to it, instead they spoke of the atonement done by the binding of Isaac, or even of the merit of Moses: Cf. H. J. Schoeps, Paul, the Theology of the Apostle, p. 129 and Samson Levey, The Messiah: an Aramaic Interpretation, p. 152, n. 10 and Jacob Neusner, Messiah in Context, p. 190. Schoeps cites many texts showing belief in vicarious suffering but adds that they were carefully worded "because it was felt undesirable to lend support to the Christian interpretation" of Isaiah 53."Again with the same motive and in order to eliminate the reference of Isaiah 53 to Christ atoning power was imputed to the death of Moses."
There is a delicate and precise distinction here. Paul did require merits but not as earning or paying for justification or further grace. The death of Christ alone paid. For Paul our merits are a hoc propter hoc as in I. 19.5. c--they are not needed to earn, first grace and heaven but are given 1) in accord with God's love of having a reason or title for giving further gifts, 2) as a sign of love for us to make things richer for us and as a means of reassuring us that we are in his grace.
Paul indeed knew of merits (2 Tim 4. 8) but it was not his own merits that saved, it was the merit of Jesus. We could get in on the claim Jesus established only by being His members and like Him: Rom 5.18: "We are heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him, so we may also be glorified with Him."
Contrast the Jewish views: In b. Sabbath 2.6. "If one is led to the place of judgment to be judged he can be saved if he has great advocates [prqlitin - from Greek paraclete] but if he does not ... he will not be saved, and these are the advocates [prqlitin] of a man: conversion and good works." in Shemoth Rabbah 32 we read that for keeping one precept God gives one angel, for two, two angels, for many, half of His host. Marmorstein (p. 172): "It was often taught that the creation of the whole world was due to the merits of the righteous. Even one righteous man is sufficient for this purpose. :" Marmorsetein also reports, p. 188: "And finally, if there are no merits among men, Israel or gentiles alike, then God does mercy for the sake of the cattle. :"
An extreme conceit, not imitated by other rabbis, is reported by Marmorstein p. 54, from Simon ben Jochai: "I am able to free the whole world from judgment from the hour of my birth up to now. If my son Eleazar be with me, I can do the same for all creatures from the beginning of creation up to now." On the other hand Marmorstein tells us on p. 22: "Even men of great merits trembled at the thought whether their share in the future life was assured or not" Did they have enough merits was the question it seems. J. Jeremias (NT Theology pp. 287-88): "Any death has the power to atone if it is bound up with repentance. That even holds for the death of a criminal."
Many of the Fathers saw in Isaac carrying the wood for his own sacrifice a prophecy of Jesus carrying His cross.
St. Paul insists greatly on the faith of Abraham- then why did he not point to this episode, using instead cases of less difficult obedience? We might guess that Paul, being in a running fight with the Judaizers and their distortion of covenant, disliked to speak of what was not merely faith but a work.
CHAPTER 22: Death of Sarah: Sarah died at age 127. Abraham asked the Hittites for a burial place. They said: You are a mighty prince among us. Take what place you wish. But Abraham wanted to buy the cave of Macpelah which was owned by Ephron the Hittite. He offered to give it to Abraham without a price, but Abraham bowed down and insisted on paying. Ephron then suggested 400 shekels of silver. There was as yet no coinage in those days, so the silver was weighed out. Sarah was buried there.
CHAPTER 24: A wife for Isaac: When Abraham was old he called the oldest servant he had, Eliezer (cf. 15.2) and told him to put his hand under his thigh to take an oath. (thigh was a euphemism for genitalia, as the source of life). Abraham then ordered him to go out of Canaan to the land of his kin and find a wife for Isaac. If the woman was unwilling to come, the servant was free of the oath. But Abraham promised God would send an angel with him. Isaac must not return to the land from which God had ordered Abraham to leave years before.
The servant took ten camels and many rich presents and went to Nahor in Mesopotamia. There he prayed that the girl who would come to draw water when he should ask for water for himself and for his camels if she agreed, should be the one God had chosen for Isaac. At once, Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel, who was son of Milcah, wife of Nahor brother of Abraham came to draw water.
She did all he asked without hesitation. Then the servant took out a gold ring of half a shekel, and two bracelets of ten shekels of gold for her arms She invited him at once to come with her. The servant praised God for his fidelity. At home, she ran to her brother Laban. When Laban saw the gold things and heard how the prayer of the servant had been answered, he invited the servant to stay.
The servant insisted on first handling the business for which he had come. When they heard the story, Laban and Bethuel said it was clearly the will of God. The servant then got out all the rich presents, and gave them to Laban and Methuel mother of Rebekah.
In the morning, the servant wanted to start back, but Laban wanted to delay 10 days. Rebekah asked to start at once, and so they did.
Isaac had come from Beer lahai-roi and was in the field in the evening to meditate. He lifted up his eyes and saw Rebekah. She then put on her veil. The servant told Isaac all that had happened. Isaac then took her to his tent and she became his wife.
Here as often in the Old Testament we see arranged marriages--no romantic courtship. Even today this is done in some lands, including Japan, where the young people have the choice of which method to use. The attitude seems to be that older persons may have a clearer eye, not distorted by feelings, and be apt to make a wiser choice. Physical beauty is so temporary. Some beauty queens have made poor wives-- they never had to learn the skills of interpersonal relationships. They could get all they wanted by mere physical attractiveness.
In fact the opinions of others of the same age is apt to be helpful, for while their judgment is pulled by a particular young person, it is not so affected by the one being considered by their friend.
Abundant experience shows that marriages depending on physical appeal may not last long-- we know how common the marriage breakups are today, which is frightening.
Will the lack of great initial feeling of attraction damage the chances for success in marriage? Little if any. Once the couple begins to enjoy legitimate intercourse, that powerfully tends to start warm feelings. This is specially true if they are following God's rules, which are very effective. To love is really not to have feelings, it is to greatly desire the well-being and happiness of the other for the other's sake. The feelings are merely somatic resonance, the bodily parallel to the spiritual attitude. If a couple plays the game contrary to God's designs, it will feel like love, but that is only chemistry, the somatic resonance to real love. But since it feels like the real thing but is not, eventually they will find out they are locked in a house with another for whom they never did have real love, only chemistry.
From Gen. 25.20 we learn Isaac was 40 years old at the time of his marriage.
We note that Eliezer in praying to find the right wife, set out conditions. God fulfilled them. This fact, and similar cases elsewhere in the OT have led some to think that should be a normal way of finding the will of God. But such is not the case: today it would be tempting God to lay down conditions. Some theologians try to explain why it was common in the OT but not permitted now, by saying that now that God has given us not a partial revelation, but the full revelation of Himself in His Son. It is true that Jesus is the full revelation of the Father - but that is a revelation of what the Father is and is like and what is His will in general. -- it does not of course give us information on details of His will.
CHAPTER 25. Death of Abraham. Esau and Jacob: Abraham died at age 175. Before he died he gave all his property to Isaac, gave presents to the others And sent them away to the east.
St. Paul in Romans 9 traces the line of descent of the People of God from Abraham, through Isaac through Jacob. St. Paul does not speak at all of predestination to heaven or hell, but only of membership in the People of God. Originally the promise to Abraham and his descendants meant the land, and, especially after Sinai, added favors. But by the end of the OT period it had been reinterpreted to mean eternal salvation. St. Paul stresses that the special favor of full membership (there is also a lesser degree) in the People of God was given not for merits, but simply because God so willed. Paul specially mentions Esau and Jacob and says that before they had done any good or evil God made His choice. (It seems to have taken into account especially spiritual need. Cf. W. Most The Thought of St. Paul, comments on 1 Cor 1.).
Full membership does not predetermine eternal salvation, though it is a great help towards that.
In this chapter Jacob gains first place. At the bottom it was from God's will. But Jacob actually used trickery, a thing he did again later on. And old Portuguese proverb said: "God can write straight with crooked lines."
For centuries, this membership in the People of God was confused with final salvation. It is only in our time that the distinction has been made. Scripture never once speaks of predestination to heaven though there are some implications: God as a good Father wants all His children to turn out well, to be saved. But since He sees some of them will block His designs by repeated rejection of grace, He decides to let them go --negative reprobation, leading later to the positive reprobation. All others who have not blocked Him, He predestines to heaven, without merits. It is not basically because of their lack of resistance -- it is because from the outset this is what He wanted, namely to bring all to heaven.
To return to the narrative of chapter 25: We read of the genealogies of children from Abraham and then from Isaac. These genealogies we know need not be simply family trees -- genealogies then were often constructed for other purposes, here chiefly to relate neighboring peoples to Israel.
Abraham's wife Rebekah had twins her womb, who even struggled there. She said, in Hebrew whose import is enigmatic:: "Why do I live?"
Esau was born first, and had much red hair -- hence, Edom (red -an alternative name for Esau the eponymous ancestor of the Edomites). Jacob held onto the heel of Esau during birth- - cf. Hebrew aqeb, heel, and aqah to seize at the heel, to supplant. which may provide an allusion to Jacob supplanting Esau in getting the birthright. Hence God told his mother: The elder shall serve the younger."
Once when Esau came back dead tired and hungry after hunting, he saw a pot of red lentils which Jacob was cooking. He asked for some. Very uncharitably Jacob said he would give it in exchange for Esau's birthright as bekor, the first born. Esau was so famished he gladly gave it. God used this sin to bring about the line of descent of the People of God He had planned.
Although God had promised the land to descendants of Abraham forever, the obvious condition was "If you are not unfaithful." Hence in 1 Kings 9 after the dedication of the great Temple, God appeared to Solomon and promised if he and the people would be faithful, God would dwell there forever. But if not "I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them. "Cf. the image of the tame olive tree in Romans 9.
CHAPTER 26: Isaac and Abimelech: Again there was a famine in the land. Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines at Garar. God told him to go down to Egypt; He would care for him. While Isaac was at Gerar the men of the place noticed his wife. Fearing for himself and her he told them it was his sister. One day Abimelech saw Isaac fondling his wife. Abimelech asked him: Why did you tell me she was your sister? And the king told all the people of the land not to touch her.
Isaac sowed the land and reaped 100 fold, and he became rich. The king told him; Go away, you are much more powerful than we are.
Isaac then did leave, but first there was a dispute since the Philistines had stopped the wells Abraham had dug there. Isaac dug another well. When Abimelech heard, he came to Isaac with Ahuzzath his advisor and Phichol his army commander. They made a covenant to be peaceful at the wells. He called it Sibah, hence the name of Beersheba.
The questions asked: Is this episode a doublet of the case of Abraham and Abimelech, for there are great similarities. But the differences are great; Abimelech did take Abraham's wife, the present Abimelech did not. He even warned his people not to touch her. So there is no strong reason to think there is duplication. Abimelech and Phicolae are the same names, but they could have been repeated or could have been titles instead of personal names.
When Esau was 40 years old he married two Hittite women. Isaac and Rebekah were greatly displeased.
CHAPTER 27 The blessing of Isaac:. When Isaac was very old, and saw he might be close to death, and also could not see -- we suspect cataracts-- he called Esau and told him to go hunting and fix a fine meal for him and then he would bless him before he would die. Rebekah overheard it, and she favored Jacob, so she called him and told him to bring two kids from the flock, and she would make a fine meal for Isaac so he would bless Jacob. Jacob objected that he did not have much hair on his arms like Esau. She said she would wrap the skins of kids on his arms and neck, so Isaac might be deceived.
All happened as she had planned. Isaac brought a fine meal and Isaac asked: Are you my son Isaac? Jacob lied. His father felt the hairy skins and thought it must be Esau. He then gave Jacob the blessing.
Scarcely had this happened when Esau came in, and said he was Esau. The Father was distressed; Esau wailed. The Father said he could not take back the blessing, and so at the tears of Esau gave Esau a lesser blessing.
After this Esau hated Jacob and planned to kill him after the mourning period of Isaac would be over. Rebekah learned of it, sent Jacob away to Laban until the anger of Esau might quiet down.
Jacob was guilty of grave sin in extorting the birthright and in lying. This distressed Augustine until St. Ambrose explained it allegorically. He should have seen that Jacob repented later and God forgave him. Augustine in his work De mendacio wrote: "Non est mendacium sed mysterium -- it is not a lie but a mystery". This is simply deceptive allegory.
St. Paul in Romans 9 says God chose Jacob to be part of the line of descent of the people of God before the twins were born or had done anything good or evil. So this choice was not based on merits. The choice at first merely meant Jacob would inherit from Isaac. To be a full member was of spiritual benefit, but did not at all predetermine the eternal fate of Jacob. Only later would St. Paul bring out the spiritual benefit, still not including predestination to heaven. But Abraham, Isaac and Jacob seem not to have known of eternal salvation --the benefit given them was the land and special favor.
God of course did not will these sins of Jacob, but He could and did draw good from evil.
Today we speak of full or lesser membership in the people of God, the Church. Full membership means explicitly and fully accepting all the teaching and authority of the Church: getting one's name on the parish register. It is implied in official texts that there can be and must be something lesser, which can still sufficient for fulfilling the teaching" no salvation outside the Church."
St. Justin Martyr in Apology 1.46 said that some in the past were Christian long before Christ, because they followed the Logos, the divine Word. He mentioned specially Socrates (He incidentally was not homosexual: Plato quotes him many times as saying that the one who seeks truth must have as little as possible to do with the things of the body). Justin also wrote in 2.10 that the Logos is within each man. St. Paul in Romans 2.15 says the Spirit writes the law on the heart of each man, and he according to his acceptance can be saved or not. So Socrates read what the Spirit told him: he believed it, he had confidence, he obeyed it. That is what St. Paul means by faith, which saves. (Romans 3.29).
Further, we gather from Rom 8.9 that one who has and follows the Spirit belongs to Christ, is a member of Christ --which is a member of the Church. The Magisterium many times over shows there is a way of being saved: for those who do not formally enter the Church: cf. texts of the Magisterium and of the Fathers in Wm. Most Our Father's Plan, appendix. E.g. John Paul II in his Encyclical on Missions said there is a "mysterious grace" which does not make one formally a member of the Church, but yet provides for his salvation.
What is the force of a blessing? Today, one given by a bishop, priest or deacon carries the power of the prayer of the Church. A blessing given by others is still valuable. The prayers of the Patriarchs were those of men whom God had put in a special position and hence were of special power.
CHAPTER 28: Jacob sees the ladder: As we saw at the end of chapter 27 on the blessing, Esau hated Jacob. Rebekah said to Isaac :I am weary of my life because of the Hittite women Esau has married. To avoid that, and to let the anger of Esau cool, Isaac called Jacob, blessed him, told him to go to Padan-Aram to take as a wife one of the daughters of Laban. Esau seeing this, went and married in addition to his Hittite wives also Mahalath, daughter of Ishmael.
Jacob set out towards Haran. When it was night, he stopped at some place. For a pillow he used a stone. In his sleep he saw a vision: There was a ladder from earth to heaven. God was at the top. Angels without wings wee going up and down the ladder God spoke to Jacob: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac. He renewed the promise of the land. and of His protection.
When Jacob woke he said: Surely God is in this place, and I did not know it. He poured oil on the stone to consecrate it as a masebah. The Canaanites and later Israelites did such things. They seemed to think God dwelt there. There was to be a shrine there later. Jacob named the place Beth-el, house of God. He vowed:: If God brings me back safely, then He, Yahweh, shall be my God.
The meaning of the vision is clear: God constantly watches over us, using angels. They had no wings, hence a ladder. At this time the merely spiritual nature of angels was not yet clearly known. As we said, the Israelites later too thought of God dwelling in certain places. Canaanites held similar ideas about their gods--each of which for them was local. If their city prospered it meant their god was powerful.
The Israelites still held some superstitions later on. Even today in some S. American areas voodoo and other pagan beliefs are kept along with Christianity -- illogical, but people are not always so logical.
The truth is this: God is everywhere A spirit does not need place. We say a spirit is present wherever it is producing an effect. God saws fit to use this mentality and to grant prayers specially when made in Bethel or later in the great temple. In Acts 7. 48-50, Stephen before being stoned told the priests that God does not dwell in houses made by hands. To them this would seem to deny the presence of God in the Temple. The omnipresence of God was too advanced a concept for them.
CHAPTER 29: Jacob takes a wife: In the land of the East, Jacob came to well. He inquired of the shepherds about it. They said Rachel daughter of Laban, his kinsman, was coming. When she did come, Jacob embraced her, and explained who he was. They went together to the house of Laban.
Jacob and Laban agreed he should serve Laban for 7 years-- as a sort of mohar, or bride's price. At the end of the 7 years, Laban gave him Leah in place of Rachel. Since he went in to her only when she still had a veil, he did not know until the morning. He complained to Laban who said that in that land it was not usual to give in marriage the younger before the elder. So he agreed to serve another 7 years for Rachel. Later in Lev. 18.18 to marry sisters was forbidden.
Rachel was barren, but Leah had three sons. Yet she was "hated", that is in the Hebrew idiom, loved less than Rachel.
CHAPTER 30. The trickery of Laban: After God gave Rachel also children Jacob wanted to leave. But Laban told Jacob he had learned by divination that God blessed him because of Jacob. So Jacob offered to take as his pay every one of the goats that was speckled and spotted, and all the black lambs.
Laban again used trickery: he came and took from the flock all that were the kind Jacob had said. He put them at three days distance from those that should go to Jacob. But Jacob with divine help took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane, and peeled them to make them striped. Jacob put the rods before the sheep at the watering place where they would mate, and put the striped rods before them. He also in this way got the stronger of the flock to breed for him.
Did Laban really receive a divine response? Possible. For God did favor Jacob. It might be also hat he used old rites of divination. The proposed division of the sheep was such that normally Jacob would get far fewer. But he used a trick -- in itself superstitious, but here with God's blessing. Of course getting the stronger to breed was merely normal practice.
CHAPTER 31: Jacob leaves Laban: When Jacob had grown rich in this way, the sons of Laban complained to Laban. Jacob therefore took all his wives, children, servants and flocks and prepared to set out.
While Laban was away shearing his sheep, Jacob saw Laban was not friendly to him anymore. God appeared to Jacob and told him to return to the land of his fathers. When he was leaving, Rachel stole her father's terafim, household gods. We are not sure what significance she saw in them. In documents found at Nuzi, they would be a sign of a right to inherit. Or they could have been merely superstition. We know superstitious practices such as voodoo even today especially in southern America are often kept along with Christianity.
On the third day Laban learned Jacob had fled, and pursued him. God appeared to Laban and told him not to harm Jacob. Laban searched the tents of Jacob, did not find the terafim, for Rachel had put them in the hollow of a camel's back, and was sitting on them. She said she could not get up, being in her period. Laban reproached Jacob for infidelity but yet they made a covenant
CHAPTER 32: Jacob goes to meet Esau: Jacob sent messengers ahead to see Esau. and they reported to Jacob Esau was coming with 400 men. Then to prepare to meet Esau, Jacob divided his wives, children, and cattle into two groups. The next day he divided them into further groups, and instructed his servants to put distance between one group and the next. When the first of them would meet Esau he directed him to say: this is a present for my Lord Esau, and so on for the other groups.
During the night Jacob arose and sent his throng across the ford of the Jabbok. He himself was then left alone there. And a man (ish) met him and wrestled with him all night until daybreak. When the man saw he did prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh which was put out of joint. Jacob still refused to let the man go until he had blessed him. The man said: Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with god [elohim] man and have prevailed. The man did bless Jacob but would not give his name. Even to now the Israelites do not eat the sinew of the hip which is upon the thigh, for this reason.
This is indeed a mysterious narrative It reminds us of the stories in chapters 1-11 perhaps to explain he odd custom of not eating that part of a body. It also is important for changing the name of Jacob - and so his character-- by the new name Israel, having seen God. -- We note this wrestler is only a man, ish, and speaks of self as elohim, which could mean God, but also means angels or a superhuman being or even human judges It is clear the sacred writer did not mean to take this at face value--why wrestle all night? why inflict permanent bodily harm? It was a story to explain the odd custom, and the change of name of Jacob and perhaps also the place name Penuel, much like the stories of chapters 1-11.
CHAPTER 33: Actual encounter with Esau: When Jacob saw Esau he prostrated himself on the ground seven times. Esau came up, embraced him, and kissed him. Esau said he did not need the generous offer that Jacob was making. So Esau went on his way to Mount Seir, while Jacob came safely to Shechem. There from the sons of Hamor he bought the ground for his tent.
CHAPTER 34: The rape of Dinah: When Dinah, daughter of Jacob by Leah went out there to see the women, Shechem, son of Hamor, saw her, seized her, and lay with her. Jacob waited until her brothers Simeon and Levi came. Hamor asked for her to marry Shechem.
The sons of Jacob said they would agree if all the men there would be circumcised. It was. But when it had been done, on the 3rd day after. Simeon and Levi slew Hamor and his son Shechem.
Jacob said he feared the men there were more numerous than his throng, and so left.
CHAPTER 35: Death of Rachel: God appeared to Jacob, told him to go to Bethel. Jacob insisted his people give up all their foreign gods and rings from their ears. Jacob hid them under an oak at Shechem.
God appeared to Jacob again, and renewed His promises. When they had left Bethel and were at some distance, Rachel fell into labor, and died of it. She named the son thus born Benoni -- son of my griefs. Jacob called him Benjamin - Son of the right hand.
After this Jacob came to Mamre where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned. There Isaac died, at age 180. Jacob and Esau buried him.
CHAPTER 36: Genealogy of descendants of Esau: Esau and Jacob separated, for their throngs were so numerous. After this we have simply a genealogy. As usual, it need not be purely a family tree.
CHAPTER 37: The envy of the brothers of Joseph: Jacob had a favorite son. Joseph, 17 years old. Joseph brought to his father a very bad report of uncertain nature on his brothers. That may have started the hatred of the brothers for Joseph. Jacob made for Joseph a tunic with long sleeves. The Greek says with various colors, while the Hebrew is as we have given it. The brothers had short sleeves, practical for working.
Then Joseph had two dreams. In one he was with sheaves in the field, and the other sheaves all bowed down before his sheaf. The second dream had the same thought: the sun and moon and stars worshipped him. In anger and envy they said: Will your father and mother and worship you? His father kept the saying in mind.
Later the brothers went to pasture the sheep near Shechem. Jacob sent Joseph there, but he did not find them at once. A man in the field told him they had gone near Dothan. So we set out for Dothan.
The brothers saw him coming and said: Let us kill him, and see what good his dreams are. But Reuben wanted to rescue him, and proposed putting him in a dry well. Then they sat down to eat. And caravan of Ishmaelites came from Gilead, where there was fine gum, balm, and myrrh, headed for Egypt. Judah suggested they sell him as a slave into Egypt and then put blood on his cloak and tell the father a wild animal had eaten him. And so they did. He was sold for 20 shekels of silver- the normal price of a slave at that time (much before or after the time it would be higher or lower). The father was crushed, could not be comforted. Meanwhile the Ishmaelites sold Joseph to Potiphar, the captain of the guard under Pharaoh.
CHAPTER 38: Judah and Tamar: This little chapter is in a way a puzzle. On the one hand it shows much freedom in sexual conduct; on the other hand: why is it interjected here in the story of Joseph?
Judah seems to be living outside the territory of the twelve tribes, Yet Exodus 1. 1. says he was among those descendants of Jacob who went down to Egypt, and later came out. It must be that part of this tribe of Judah went down, part did not. And the place in which he lived was very close to Egypt. Judah also married a Canaanite women Shua, Their first son, Er was wicked, and God slew him. The second son was Onan.
The later law of Moses was going to include a Levirate Law in 25.5-10 If a man died leaving no children, then his brother was obliged to take the dead brother's wife to have children to continue his line. If the brother did not want to do this, the wife of his brother could bring him to the Elders, and take off his sandal and spit on his face. But we note that the penalty was not death or exclusion from the people: only a form of disgrace. In this case the offspring would be important, as the means of continuing the line from Abraham and Isaac-- the only means to do so Onan did go into Tamar, but spilled his seed: so God slew Onan, even though the penalty for breaking the Levirate law was not death: Hence there was something else, something more important, the immorality. In fact Lev 18.16 & 20.21 prohibit a man from having intercourse with his brother's wife. No mention is made of an exception for fulfilling Levirate law.
So the Magisterium, beginning with Casti connubii of Pius XI, today interprets this text to mean Onan was slain for spilling the seed, as well as for violating the Levirate law, which was to come later.
In the course of time, Tamar who lived with her father, seeing there would be no offspring to continue the line of her dead husband, put off her widow's garb and sat by the road where her father was to go. He, thinking her a harlot, asked for sex. She made him promise a kid, and also as a pledge his signet, cord, and staff. Later it was reported to Judah that she had conceived, and he sent for her, He asked the men of Enaim where the harlot was. They said there had been none there.
Three months later Judah was told Tamar was with child. He ordered her death. But then she sent back his cord, ring and staff. Then Judah realized, and said: She was more righteous than I for providing thus for a continuation of the line. He did not lie with her anymore.
She brought forth twins, Zerah and Perez. Perez in Luke's genealogy is among the ancestors of Jesus. Again, God brings good from evil even in the line of descent to His Son, who came to save sinners.
CHAPTER 39: Joseph in prison in Egypt: Joseph was bought by Potiphar, captain of the guard. Potiphar seeing Joseph did all things well, put him in charge of all his household.
(Potifar means gift to Re, the sun god. He had a trusted position, for a man so close to the Pharaoh would have a chance to give him poison). Potifar's wife found Joseph very good looking, and wanted to lie with him. Joseph always refused. But on one such occasion he fled, and she was able to hold on to his cloak. So when Potifar came home, the wife accused Joseph of the very crime which he had refused. So Joseph was put in prison.
There too God gave Joseph favor in the eyes of the keeper of the prison, who puts Joseph in charge of everything there.
CHAPTER 40: Dreamers in prison: The former chief baker of Pharaoh was also in prison and the former Chief Butler. Each had a dream. Joseph interpreted: Baker will be hanged in 3 days. Butler will be restored in 3 days. Both came true. Joseph asked the butler to remember him when he got out. He did not - gratitude is the weakest of human responses.
CHAPTER 41: Pharaoh's Dreams: Two years latter, Pharaoh had two dreams: seven fat cattle being eaten up by lean ones, and then of seven rich ears, but seven lean ears, blighted by the east wind swallowed up the fat ears. Pharaoh was troubled, and sent for all his wise men. But they could not interpret. At that point the Butler finally remembered Joseph and his interpretations. Pharaoh had Joseph brought in. Joseph said he did not have the meaning, but God would give it. The rich cattle and rich grain meant seven years of fine crops; the lean cows and lean ears meant seven years of famine.
Pharaoh was so pleased he placed Joseph in charge of saving the grain and made him a sort of vizier, second in command. He dressed Joseph in fine linen, the garment of the aristocracy, put a gold collar around him, gave him his signet ring to seal documents, had him ride in his second chariot while a herald would call out before him: Abrek.
Some modern writers have said that Genesis shows little understanding of Egyptian ways and names. Thus Kyle McCarter in Ancient Israel, (Biblical Archaeology Society, 1988, pp. 26-27. He finds parallels to events in other ancient literatures-which prove nothing against this narrative. And McCarter says that wind in Egypt to scorch grain would be from the south, not the east. But the later writer of Genesis, to make the meaning clear, might adapt that item, just as translators today often adapt things. But the authors who attack the Genesis account have not done their research well. A. Asensio, in Genesis, in La Sacrada Escritura (Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, Madrid, 1967, I., pp. 255-57) offers a solidly researched explanation. Abrek is a Hebraized form of Egyptian ib-r-k. The sense is: attention, bow. Such a hebraizing form of Egyptian words is not strange: we have four Pharaohs named Amenhotep (Amen is pleased). But the Greeks changed it to Amenophis. English keeps Bethlehem in its original form, but Spanish turns it into belem.
Pharaoh also gave Joseph an Egyptian name Zaphenath-paneah = Sapenat paneah, which St. Jerome translated as: Savior of the world. Pharaoh also gave him an Egyptian wife, Aseneth, a good Egyptian name (she of goddess Neith) daughter of the priest of On, which seems to be Heliopolis, mentioned in Jer 43.13. Asenethbore him two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
And of course, periods of bumper crops followed by blight are known in Egypt outside of Genesis. Also, during the famine, Joseph bought up all the land of Egypt, and made it the property of Pharaoh - in accord with a classic Egyptian idea that the Pharaoh owned all the land.
The fact that this story of Joseph is so skillfully and dramatically written does not at all prove it is not an authentic account
Many think Joseph rose to power in Egypt because of the Hyksos who, they think then ruled. The Hyksos probably included some Semites. But the reasoning is empty, for the divine power of interpreting dreams was adequate reason. After the fall of the Middle Kingdom there was a time of anarchy in Egypt, after which the Hyksos, foreigners, ruled the land until expelled by the New Kingdom ---probably the king "who did not know Joseph" as Exodus 1.8 says. The Hyksos probably came in two waves, c 1720 and 1674. They probably at first ruled from Avaris in the Delta, then extended their rule south.
CHAPTER 42: Ten brothers to Egypt: When Jacob heard there was grain in Egypt, he sent ten brothers -- all but Benjamin-- to buy grain. Joseph of course knew his brothers but they did not know him, thinking he was only a slave. And he spoke through an interpreter to prevent recognition. To test his brothers, Joseph spoke roughly and accused them of being spies. Joseph put them into prison for three days. Then he insisted just one of them go back to Jacob to prove true what they had said about Benjamin. He ordered that Benjamin come next time. Before they left Joseph ordered their money to be placed in their sacks.
When the brothers saw the money they were tearful When they said to Jacob that Benjamin must come, he refused.
The seeming harsh treatment meted out by Joseph was a means of seeing if his brothers really had had a change of heart.
CHAPTER 43: Benjamin to Egypt: Finally Jacob had to allow Benjamin to go with them. Jacob sent presents and double the money.
When Joseph saw Benjamin he ordered a fine dinner prepared for all of them He asked if his father was well. Joseph hurried to find a place to weep where it would not be seen. He had them served separately, since Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews. He sent five times as much food for Benjamin as for the others.
CHAPTER 44: Benjamin finds Joseph's cup in his sack. Then Joseph sent a servant to overtake them and charge them with stealing his cup. Joseph said only the man in whose sack the cup was found was to be his slave. But Judah offered to take Benjamin's place. so it was now clear that their hearts had changed.
CHAPTER 45: Joseph reveals himself: Joseph had all but the brothers sent out, and then he wept loudly and he said: I am Joseph your brother! Is my Father still alive? He also said they should not be angry with themselves: God sent him ahead to preserve a remnant. God has made me a father to pharaoh and ruler over all the land. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen. Then they fell on each other's necks and wept.
Goshen was in the eastern part of the delta, closer to Canaan. And the land was suitable for grazing: they were shepherds. Egyptians did not like shepherds.
Pharaoh was pleased at the report, and ordered all things necessary to bring Jacob and his tribe to Egypt. Joseph warned them: Do not quarrel on the way-- a needed admonition.
CHAPTER 46: Israel sees Pharaoh: Jacob went by way of Bersabee, and offered sacrifices there. God appeared to him and reassured him: I will be with you. Joseph will close your eyes there and will bring you (your descendants) back up afterwards.
There follows a long genealogy.
Jacob sent Judah ahead to Joseph. who came out in his own chariot. When Joseph saw his father, he told him to say to the Pharaoh that they were keepers of cattle, since the Egyptians did not like shepherds -- a curious thing, since one of the royal insignia of a mummy of a Pharaoh was a shepherd's crook. He was ideally to be the good shepherd of his people, in keeping ma'at, a cluster of social action virtues. This idea grew especially during the Middle Kingdom. The notion of the king as a shepherd was found elsewhere: Homer uses as a stock epithet for kings: poimenes laon--shepherds of the people."
CHAPTER 47: Jacob meets Pharaoh: Joseph took his father and five brothers in to Pharaoh (reason for 5 is uncertain, seems symbolic. cf. 43.34). Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh asked him how old he was. He said his years were "130 years, few and evil". Abraham had lived 175, Isaac 180. Jacob could call his years evil for he had suffered much in the loss of Joseph for so many years, thinking him dead. He died at age 147. Life expectancy in Egypt was then far less. On hearing they were shepherds, Pharaoh told Joseph to take some capable men from among them to care for Pharaoh's flocks.
As Pharaoh said, Joseph gave them land in the area of Goshen, in the land of Ramses. The name is anachronistic; Ramses II built a city there in his time (c. 1290-23). Many archaeologists think they have found Pi Rameses and Avaris. Identification of those remains is a key factor in dating the Exodus to around 1290 as we saw above.
When the famine persisted, the people came to Joseph and bought grain. Joseph gathered up all the money in the land and put it in Pharaoh's treasury. Then later they came again, and be took as pay their flocks etc. After a year they came again, and sold themselves: so all in Egypt became slaves of Pharaoh, except the priests, who had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh. Others gave him l/5 of the produce, and could keep the rest. That ordinance in Egypt still stands says the writer of Genesis.
Jacob died at age 137. Before that he asked Joseph to put his hand under his thigh-- we explained that move earlier--and swear he would not bury him in Egypt.
CHAPTER 48: Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh: Joseph heard his father was ill. He took his two sons to him. Jacob sat up in his bed. Jacob then called the two sons to bless them. Joseph put Ephraim on the right, Manasseh on the left. But Israel crossed over his hands, putting his right hand on the head of Ephraim. Joseph wanted to move the hands, but Jacob insisted. Manasseh shall be great, but the elder shall serve, that is, have primacy over the elder-- just as in the case of Esau and Jacob He recalled God's promises. He said that these two sons were his, just as Reuben and Simeon. He adopted them. Later sons of Joseph will belong to the tribes of their brothers. The two became prominent in the later story of the tribes. Jacob also said he gave specially to Joseph one mountain slope, Sichem, which he took from the Amorites. We recall the fate of the city in Gen 34).
Jacob mentions specially the burial of his favorite Rachel in Ephrath, which later seems identified with Bethlehem. (cf. Micah 5.2)
CHAPTER 49: Jacob's prophecy/blessing:
Reuben in 35.22 had committed incest with his father's concubine, Bilha. He was given a reproach instead of a blessing.
Simeon and Levi were also reproached for what they did after the rape of Dinah in chapter 34.
Judah is given a great prophecy and blessing. He like a lion will have victory over his enemies, who will bow down to him. But there follow a clearly Messianic prophecy: (We translate in accord with targumic and rabbinic traditions:
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and his shall be the obedience of the peoples."
Jacob Neusner, Messiah in Context, (Fortress, Phila. 1984): "It is difficult to imagine how Gen 49:10 could have been read as other than a messianic prediction." A major modern Jewish scholar sees what so many Catholic commentators do not see.
Samson Levey, in The Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, 1974, p. 8: "Other rabbinic sources, both Midrashic and Talmudic, also take this passage as Messianic."
Targum Neofiti: "Kings shall not be lacking from the house of Judah... until the time at which King Messiah will come." Targum Onkelos (which sees messianism only here and in Numbers 24, 17-24, [Balaam] agrees, as do Pseudo-Jonathan and the Fragmentary Targum.
Genesis Rabbah 98. 8: "Until Shiloh comes: he to whom kingship belongs."
Talmud, Sanhedrin 98b: "What is His [Messiah's] name? The school of R. Shila said, 'Shiloh,' as it is written, until Shiloh comes."
Lamentations Rabbah 1. 16. 51: "The school of R. Shila said: The Messiah's name is 'Shiloh' as it is stated, Until Shiloh come (Gen xxlix. 10), where the word is spelt Shlh." Levey adds in note 23 (p. 149) "A play on the similarity of the name, thus rendering honor to their teacher. The Talmud continues that the school of R. Jannai claimed the messiah's name was Jinnon, and the school of R. Hananiah said it was Hananiah, each quoting an appropriate proof-text." (A similar claim is in Moore, Judaism, II. pp. 348-49). COMMENT: The school of Shila does have a solid base in the Hebrew text itself, and in the Targumic and Rabbinic view, which the other proposals completely lack. Cf. Moses Aberbach and Bernard Grossfeld, Targum Onkelos on Genesis 49, (Scholars Press, Missoula, 1976, p. 14).
COMMENTS: 1) There may be echoes of Gen 49. 10 in Ez 21.17: "It will not be restored until he comes to whom it rightly belongs. To him I will give it. :" and also Jer 33.14:"Behold the days are coming - Oracle of Yahweh - and I will perform the good word which I spoke to the house of Israel and the house of Judah."
2) Some Modern scholars object that the Hebrew text is corrupt because Shiloh is feminine, while the verb is masculine. REPLY: Shiloh stands for a man, so there is agreement by sense. Further, there are some parallels in the OT: Jer 49.16 where a feminine noun, tiplaset (your horror) has a masculine verb. Also: Ez 1.5-10 where the noun hayoth is feminine, yet the suffixes in the next verses referring to the living creatures shift between masculine and feminine. Cf. also Anchor Bible, Daniel, p. 269. This sort of shift was common in Mishnaic Hebrew.
3) History: The Jews did have some sort of ruler from the tribe of Judah until Rome imposed Herod on them as Tetrarch in 41 B.C. Soon, in 37 B.C. he became King. Herod was Jewish by religion - the Jews had forced their religion on Idumea, but Herod lived up to it poorly, and, most importantly, by birth he was not of the tribe of Judah. He was half Idumean, half Arab. The fulfillment would have been more glorious had they not been so unfaithful so often. Neusner reports (p. 12): "No one who knows the Gospels will be surprised to learn of the intense, vivid, prevailing expectation that the Messiah was coming soon."
Verses 11-12 give a picture of the messianic age as found elsewhere, e.g., Isaiah 11.1-9.
Zebulon did reach to the sea, from the high plains of Galilee to the Mediterranean.
The tribe of Issachar did have strength, as shown especially against Sisera (Judges 5.15) but preferred to settle down and became subject.
Dan was small and not powerful. At first lived next to the Philistines, then moved to the far north. They used cleverness in place of physical strength.
Gad, in the northern part of Transjordan, had to fight nomad incursions. Conquered the Ammonites.
Aser- the word means fertility-- had richer land between the Philistines and the Phoenicians.
In the Canticle of Moses (Dt. 33.23) Naphthali was said to be rich in blessings.
Joseph, as we would expect, received a large and extensive blessing. It was rich in fruits. Archers attacked him, but by the power of the Almighty he was able to defend himself.
Benjamin was warlike, like a ravening wolf.
After this prophecy Jacob charged them to bury him in the field of Machpelah, the place Abraham had bought earlier from the Hittites.
After, this Jacob was gathered to his fathers.
CHAPTER 50: The funeral of Jacob: Joseph fell on his father's face and wept. Then he commanded the physicians to embalm him, which took 40 days. Egypt mourned Jacob for 70 days. (Herodotus in book II describes the process of embalming, says there were three forms. Such care was taken since Egyptians believed that after death and judgment, a man's ka --confusedly pictured as guardian spirit or soul-- would, if it passed the judgment, return to the tomb, needing the body. If it were destroyed: annihilation).
Joseph asked Pharaoh to be allowed to take his father's body and bury it in Macpelah in Canaan. Of course the Pharaoh granted the request. A great retinue went along, and mourned Jacob another 7 days.
After Jacob's death the brothers sent to Joseph asking that he forgive them. He generously granted it saying although they had meant it as evil to him, God turned it into good.
Joseph lived to an age of 110 years, and saw his children's children. Joseph then had the brothers swear that they would take his bones from Egypt when they would leave there.