Re: mtDNA Eve and the determination of humanity

From: <>
Date: Tue Feb 28 2006 - 23:32:58 EST

In a message dated 2/28/2006 10:49:43 AM Eastern Standard Time, writes:
I suspect it is the only workable approach. Then the question becomes how old
is Adam. Genetics says he can’t be recent if he is the progenitor of all
humanity. One either ditches progenitorship, or move Adam way back. There is no
other option that will fit the data. In this regard, the true answer either does
lie with Dick or with me. In my opinion, all other views are hopelessly
Ahh, now i have to say something. I'm new on this list and was really trying
to keep from to myself, but (arghh) I can't hold back since the statement
above is a perfect lead-in to my view! I believe the Bible demands a third view,
and one which keeps progenitorship, moves Adam into the disant past, and
avoids unmerited gaps. How can that be? Read on.

What we need are:

a. an historical Adam far enough back to be genetically the anscestor of us
all (i.e., much earlier than Sumer to say the least);

b. a flood recent enough that ark-building is commensurate with
anthrologists' views on the species' capabilities (i.e., not homo erectus to say the

c. no ad hoc geneological gaps where the sense of the text militates against

Three clues:

1. The Bible reads qualitatively different for the Garden of Eden and
Abel/Cain stories compared to its subsequent parts. Genesis 1-4 is more heavily
theological and anthropological through the use of intentional symbolism than the
parts immediately following.

2. The text allows small gaps in the geneologies here and there, but there
are few if any places that allow large gaps. However, it does imply one large
gap between Adam and his "grandson" Seth. According to Genesis 5 (if taken at
face value), Adam would still be living when Seth was born. Indeed that is
reasonable for a grandfather, especially in an age prior to birth control for
men to have grandsons at an early age. However, when Seth was born the author
writes that only then did men begin to call on the name of the Lord. How
could this be true and important enough to report if Adam and Eve were still
living? Let's not try to explain away the anthropological message that the author
was clearly communicating to us. There must have been period of time,
significant enough to be worth reporting, the end of which was a turning point in
human history, during which men were **not** calling on the name of the Lord.
Clearly then, Adam was long gone when Seth was born, and we only need to find
out why.

3. The parallelism between the descendants of Cain and the descendants of
Seth can't be overlooked as merely historical reporting. Either the documentary
hypothesis is correct (which I don't believe), or the author intended the
communicate something in the pattern of parallelism that we see. Both lines are
composed of versions of the exact same set of names (modified only slightly),
and both lines end with a Lamech who had a triple seven (Cain's Lamech cursed
70 times 7, and Seth's Lamech living to age 777). The obvious idea is that
one line ended in the culmination of failure for humanity (Lamech's curse)
whereas the other ended in blessings and a Messiah-figure (Lamech's son Noah who
gave them "rest"="Noah"). There is a literary parallelism here that
communicates to us theologically, and this goes beyond historical reporting.

Here is how I synthesize these three clues and hopefully win over both Glenn
and Dick.

1. the Bible often equivocates between the description of key people as
historical individuals on the one hand and their roles as theological symbols on
the other hand. Isaiah, for example, describes God's Servant alternatively as
Jacob (the Jews), Cyrus the Persian, and the Messiah who would be born of the
Jews. Edom, Jacob, Moab -- all these are examples of individuals who become
nations, which in turn are later personified as the individuals. Likewise, I
see Adam as both an historical individual **and** as a theological symbol for
mankind, all within the same text. As an historical individual, I see the
story as true (by faith since I believe the Scriptures are literally true) and yet
it was given to us according to the norms of oral mythological story telling.
 It came from an early day when the expectations laid on the story were
different than the expectations we erroneously bring to it today.

2. The theological role of Adam and Eve are obvious, but likewise Abel and
Cain are presented to explain something. They explain why mankind ("Cain") was
a primitive wanderer instead of a glorious representative of God. Cain
killed the herdsman Abel and was cursed from farming, hence early mankind will not
live on the earth as herdsman or farmers. They will be cursed and wander the
earth as hunter/gatherers. They will be afraid of others killing them, as
Cain is afraid of being killed, not because an individual named Cain killed his
brother Abel, but because wanderers do not have city walls or the protections
of civilization to keep them safe. (Check the text and you'll see that this
reading is correct.) Hence they need primitive religious marks (tatoos) on
their skin to pronounce a protection on themselves and a curse on their enemies,
and other such elements of early pagan religions that do communicate parts of
God's truth. (These elements of pagan religion were replaced as unnecessary
and then scorned at later times and hence were included as an important part of
the inspired story telling that became the inspired text; this treats the mark
of Cain as an important anthropological element and not just a random fact.)
Hence, Cain represents all mankind from the time of our creation until the
time of civilization. When "Cain" builds a city, it means that mankind has
finally stopped being wanderers (primitive hunter/gatherers) and has finally begun
civilization. Obviously the Abel and Cain story communicates that early
mankind was primitive and successfully explains that fact according to the norms
of the literary genre of that day.

3. The events recorded in the line of Cain are anthropologically verifiable
events: the beginnings of metallurgy, the beginnings of pastoral nomadism,
and the beginnings of oral literary history (those who play the lyre and
pipe...performers who pass down the stories of mankind) -- very significant events,
not just incidental minutia during homo erectus times nor any other time other
than what anthropologist actually report.

4. Seth was not Adam's direct son, despite what Eve is reported to say about
his birth. Adam and Eve symbolically represent humanity in general at that
point in the account. That sort of treatment for key individuals is the norm
in early oral storytelling, and in the Bible especially in these early
chapters. Rather than being Adam's grandson, Seth was actually descended from the
long line of "Cain" (primitive man) just as all the others before him were.
However, he is reported in the account as being born directly from Adam and Eve
because that symbolizes what a significant break has been made from the former
way of things. This event is when men finally begin calling on the name of the
Lord. This has been a long, long time, depending on whether you count
mankind as starting with homo sapiens or homo erectus or whatever. (This treatment
of Seth's birth explains how there could be a gap between Adam and Seth
without doing damage to the text. Indeed, the text implies and even demands it
since the anthropological message about man calling on the Lord makes no sense
and becomes insignificant without that gap.)

5. The Biblical story continues with complete realism right after Seth
because this is when real Hebrew oral history commenced, using historical realism
to describe events that are in mesopotamia and historically verifiable. The
flood is therefore a local flood in that region, as sumerian literature like the
gilgamesh epic really require us to believe.

Hopefully this will satisfy Glenn's theological desire to keep Adam as the
real progenitor of the entire human race and to keep Adam far enough back to
explain the geneological data, and yet also satisfy Dick's desire to keep
everything reported factually in the Bible in line with real anthropology and
archeology. (Did I thread the needle and satisfy the key element in each case?) The
key issue here is to treat the Bible in the way it invites us to treat it.
If we do so, then the problem solves itself.

I think this is compelling in part because the only part of the Biblical
account that can't be historically or scientifically verified is the part prior to
Cain becoming a wanderer. But this corresponds exactly to the point in the
text where the literary sense changes from an overwhelmingly
symbolic/theological style to an overwhelmingly historical/realistic style.

We can't force literalism on the text where the author and his chosen
literary style repudiate such literalism. While I do hold to the belief that Adam
was a real person who underwent the reported interactions with God in the
ancient past, I also see that he is presented to us according to the norms of the
only literary genre known to mankind prior to the invention of writing: "oral
myth". That term has negative baggage that I would like to avoid since I don't
believe the story is "myth" in the sense of being untrue. But we should
recognize that the story has its own expectations and we should respect them. For
example, it does not expect us to believe his name was really the Hebrew word
"Adam" ("Man"), or that the things he is reported to say are literal
translations of his actual words. There may be other freedoms implied by that literary
style. He might not have really lived in Mesopotamia, if according to the
norms of that literary style the setting is intended only to facilitate the
story's telling. I just don't know -- maybe someone can shed some light on this
idea. But it is an inspired story that communicates real historical facts, and
it does not come to us via the methods of historical reporting that we expect
from true stories in this modern era. There was no historical source to
convey the information to the Hebrews about their ancient anscestor, and instead
the account was inspired directly. That inspiration was heavily theologically-
and anthropologically-oriented to explain things that are important, not
random facts that don't mean anything about people we never directly knew.

God's blessings to you!

Phil Metzger
Received on Tue Feb 28 23:34:20 2006

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