Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person? (more advanced thought-forms)

From: Jim Armstrong <jarmstro@qwest.net>
Date: Wed Apr 09 2008 - 19:45:14 EDT

Well, I kinda like this [western] way of thinking as well, but then it's
our norm. The issue under discussion, though, crosses over into a realm
where there is a cultural mismatch that clouds our ability to understand
what the intent of the storyteller, complicated perhaps because it was
as already pre-filtered by the passage of time and then the commitment
to written form. But even our western way of thinking - if consistently
practiced - requires that we be mindful of the intrinsic ambiguity and
uncertainty aspects of the texts when attempting to understand them,
despite the resultant discomfiture. :-)

JimA [Friend of ASA]

Dehler, Bernie wrote:

> I'm sure the Rabbi's have their debates, but also their disciples. I
> have talked to some Rabbi's- some believe in a literal Adam, some not.
>
>
>
> You may have a good point about the Hebrews not caring about
> factuality- but instead caring for the "morale of the story."
> However, I think our western way of thinking is superior, separating
> fact from fantasy and being clear about whether something is literal
> or figurative. As Dawkins might say, I think the "western meme" for
> thinking is more evolved (a higher thought-form).
>
>
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu]
> On Behalf Of Jim Armstrong
> Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2008 2:07 PM
> To: ASA
> Subject: Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?
>
>
>
> Yeh, just so! Even today, the rabbinical tradition exists (at least in
> my limited experience) of telling stories that may at times be
> ..well... even fanciful, yet attributed to some esteemed figure of the
> past (often a rabbi, if in the relatively near past). The expectation
> seems to be that you will relate to the point the teller is making,
> and not dwell on or get sidetracked by the factuality of the story as
> related (a propensity of our western-biased way of thinking). The
> attributions seem to be part of the contexting for the nature of the
> story, rather than a fact that may be later vetted to lend authority
> to the story.
>
> These same teachers do not seem to be concerned about winning any
> argument by conclusively establishing any particular disputable fact.
> Rather their tradition of arguing the various positions is more a
> vehicle for teaching and learning, keeping those arguments alive and
> using the various perspectives to illuminate the several sides of the
> matter under discussion.
>
> Interestingly, that seems to serve reasonably well as a description of
> nature and consequence of the discourse on this ASA resource. But I
> also notice that the tensions between differing ideas - and the
> discussions that proceed therefrom - bring a wealth of new
> honest-to-goodness facts into play, enriching us all in that
> department! :-)
>
> Regards - JimA [Friend of ASA]
>
> philtill@aol.com <mailto:philtill@aol.com> wrote:
>
>
>
> For one thing, they had to use the stories that carried currency
> in their culture.
>
> An example would be if we quote Hamlet. Since Hamlet is an important
> figure in literature, we can speak of him as if he is a real person
> but without really implying that he is. When the NT quotes Enoch, it
> may be quoting him as a literary figure. Likewise with Adam.
>
> the issue is whether we think the people were sufficiently
> sophisticated to quote a literary figure without confuisng him with a
> real person. It comes down to what Lewis called "chronological
> snobbery." I think the people in the past were actually much more
> attuned to literary devices than we are, since they grew up with oral
> storytelling as opposed to the great literary institution known as
> television.
>
> Phil
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Bethany Sollereder <bsollereder@gmail.com>
> <mailto:bsollereder@gmail.com>
> To: Chris Barden <chris.barden@gmail.com> <mailto:chris.barden@gmail.com>
> Cc: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
> <mailto:dopderbeck@gmail.com>; philtill@aol.com
> <mailto:philtill@aol.com>; bernie.dehler@intel.com
> <mailto:bernie.dehler@intel.com>; asa@calvin.edu <mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
> Sent: Wed, 9 Apr 2008 12:12 pm
> Subject: Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?
>
> Chris,
>
> I feel that we should be careful about too hastily ascribing
> historicity to biblical characters simply because other biblical
> authors refer to them. For one thing, they had to use the stories
> that carried currency in their culture. People would have been
> familiar with who Enoch was (meant to be) and what he stood for. That
> would have been enough to use him as a powerful symbol. I might talk
> about 'herculean efforts', but that doesn't mean I think Hercules was
> a historical figure. Same thing with Adam. They used him as a type,
> and even perhaps believed that he was a true historical figure, but
> that doesn't mean that we must also ascribe historicity to him.
>
> Even if Paul and the other biblical writers did not think of Adam as a
> 'real' person, what other story could they have used? If they are
> talking about one man dealing with the sin of the world, and in your
> tradition you have the story of one man who brought sin into the
> world, you'd be a fool not to use that sort of imagery. We all use
> the stories and myths and real histories that give shape to our world
> view. We can hardly expect the biblical authors to do otherwise.
>
> Bethany Sollereder
>
> On Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 8:07 AM, Chris Barden <chris.barden@gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
> David,
>
> I don't disagree with anything you say here, indeed I think I said
> some of it. Perhaps I was unclear.
>
> The notion of truth as history vs coherence with the traditions is
> probably too complicated for any straight yes/no answer to your
> questions. The Ethiopian coptics were clearly persuaded to say "yes"
> to your question as to whether the Watchers tradition was historical,
> as they decided to put 1 Enoch in their canon. But the majority were
> not persuaded. If the criteria was for everything to be unambiguously
> historically true, then Jude should be left out for alluding to
> apocryphal materials (not just Enoch, but also probably the Testament
> of Moses, a document we have only in part and in double translation).
> Indeed, some in the early church did so argue, but the majority view
> was that Jude was to be kept as it was apostolic, edifying, and
> contained no heresy.
>
> My guess? The authors of Hebrews and Jude probably believed Enoch was
> a historical figure. Peter may well have viewed Enoch as a "type of
> Christ" just as Adam was to Paul, though whoever wrote 2 Peter excised
> the quotations when relying on Jude. Does that mean Enoch must
> definitely be a historical figure? I'm inclined to think that the
> teaching of Hebrews would be blunted if he were not, but on the other
> examples I'm open to the notion that appealing to the tradition of
> Enoch is enough to make the writers' respective points.
>
> Chris
>
>
>> We have to ask, then -- did the writers of Jude and 2 Peter consider
> 1 Enoch
>> to be true? Would the writer of Hebrews have considered texts such as 1
>> Enoch to be true? If so, do the allusions to and quotes from
> non-canonical
>> books such as 1 Enoch in the canonical scriptures suggest that these
>> non-canoncal books are valid sources of "history?" Are we as Christians
>> obligated to accept the whole of the "Watcher" tradition? Or is there at
>> least some sense in which the writers of scripture are seen here to be
>> drawing on the "history" of their day?
>>
>> At the end of the day, I'm with you in affirming an essential
> historicity to
>> "Adam." But, even the NT references to OT personages clearly aren't a
>> simple matter once the literary and cultural context of the NT
> documents is
>> brought out.
>>
>>
>>
>> On Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 7:26 AM, Chris Barden <chris.barden@gmail.com>
> wrote:
>>
>> > It certainly does seem in the NT as though Adam is treated at least as
>> > "given" through revelation and a rich tradition of Judaism. We do not
>> > have any easy way of unpacking the position of the NT writers on this
>> > point; was Adam's importance really tied to his historicity, or was it
>> > the tradition of Adam proving a certain theological or homiletical
>> > point that held first precedence? Take Enoch as an example (Bernie, I
>> > agree the list can be somewhat desultory but I feel confident this is
>> > not a rabbit trail!).
>> >
>> > Enoch was "the seventh after Adam", according to Jude 14, and he "did
>> > not experience death ... for God had taken him away" according to
>> > Hebrews 11:5. Moreover, Jesus is descended from Enoch according to
>> > Luke 3:37. All of this coheres with Genesis 5:18-24, so all writers
>> > are in agreement on the specifics of the tradition. Fine, so if we
>> > could stop there we could explain it as merely referring to that
>> > tradition. But Enoch's mysterious translation into heaven was the
>> > subject of much discussion in Jewish circles in antiquity. Further,
>> > extrabiblical traditions arose, perhaps as late as the 1st century BC,
>> > that had Enoch's trip to heaven tied in with a mission he was given.
>> >
>> > This mission, according to 1,2,3 Enoch, involved Enoch proclaiming a
>> > message of doom, a la Jonah, to the fallen angels who had children by
>> > the "daughters of women" in Genesis 6. And it is the background of
>> > this mission that makes sense of Peter's peculiar preaching at 1 Pet
>> > 3:18-22. 1 Enoch 1:9 is even _quoted_ in Jude 14-15 as a true
>> > prophecy of "Enoch, the seventh after Adam" though Enoch most probably
>> > did not write 1 Enoch. The Ethiopic Coptics still have 1 Enoch in
>> > their Bibles! All this means that we have to take seriously the
>> > notion that the weird stories about the Nephilim, arguably weirder
>> > than the Garden of Eden, were at the very least considered edifying to
>> > the point of (almost) rising to canonical status in the early church.
>> >
>> > I find it hard to believe that all of the early Christians were so
>> > steeped in Jewish traditions that they credulously accepted the
>> > historicity of all of it; in fact, I believe wholesale acceptance of
>> > these speculations were perhaps behind Paul's letter to the
>> > Colossians. But certainly some of them did, and it wasn't a fringe
>> > view at all, judging from the diversity of writers in the NT who refer
>> > to this material. If Adam wasn't a real person, how could Enoch be
>> > the seventh after him? This line of thought is why I accept the
>> > historicity of someone named Adam, and I think Dick's explanation is
>> > probably the best out there.
>> >
>> > Granted, this explanation does not satisfy some, and might even be
>> > faith-shaking. But consider: for at least 20 years, the earliest
>> > Christians did not have the NT, and may not have had all of the OT.
>> > Their focus was on Jesus and his teaching, and they did just fine.
>> > Maybe (and I know this isn't the forum to expect too much approval of
>> > this idea) our nattering about the loose ends and how they fit
>> > sometimes get in the way of edifying our fellow believers.
>> >
>> > Chris
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > On Tue, Apr 8, 2008 at 11:41 PM, <philtill@aol.com> wrote:
>> > >
>> > >
>> > >
>> > > Not only does the NT refer to Adam as a real person, but in my
> opinion,
>> the
>> > > OT also does... by naming his offspring, ages lived, etc.
>> > > First of all, one of things that can be discouraging on the ASA
> list
>> is
>> > > that so many discussions rapidly go off into rabbit trails. This was
>> > > originally a great question Bernie raised, but almost all the
> posts so
>> far
>> > > have been discussing Abraham and Jonah instead of what Bernie had
> asked
>> > > about. David's point in bringing up Abraham and Jonah was not to
>> question
>> > > their historicity -- so there is no purpose in arguing about their
>> > > historicity -- but just to point out that the Bible itself should be
>> taken
>> > > as a valid testimony at some point, and that this applies as well
> to the
>> > > question of Adam as to any other person that anybody has ever
> questioned
>> in
>> > > the Bible. In doing so, David's post was making an outstanding
> point
>> and
>> > > it was well written and thoughtful and highly interesting. The
> details
>> of
>> > > just how much Abraham can or cannot be questioned was never
> important to
>> > > David's point! I was very disappointed when the replies to David
>> > > immediately chased the rabbit (to no value!) instead of continuing to
>> > > address Bernie's real question. I think there needs to be a
> little more
>> > > restraint in not chasing the rabbits so that we can maintain a
>> meaningful
>> > > conversation here. Or maybe the "subject" line should be changed
>> whenever a
>> > > rabbit is chased.
>> > >
>> > > Bernie, one way I've been thinking about the historic treatment of
>> Adam in
>> > > the OT is with the idea that the Adam, father of Seth, in Genesis 4ff
>> was
>> > > the earliest person listed in the Hebrew geneologies and
> therefore Moses
>> (or
>> > > prior authors) took the opportunity to reflect him backwards as a
>> literary
>> > > device to "become" the first human ancestor in their creation
> mythology.
>> > > (BTW, I don't use the word "mythology" in a negative way.) Thus,
> Adam
>> in
>> > > Genesis 4ff may have been a historic individual as the
> geneologies and
>> > > subsequent accounts imply, and yet Adam in the garden may have been a
>> > > theological symbol. I think it's pretty obvious there is a genre
> change
>> > > between the garden account and the geneologies/historical
> sections that
>> > > follow. Therefore the treatment of "Adam" may have likewise been
>> different
>> > > in the two sections. We needn't assume that because the name
> identifies
>> a
>> > > literal individual in one genre therefore it refers only to a literal
>> > > individual in all genres.
>> > >
>> > > As an example, Ephraim is treated as a literal individual in
> Genesis,
>> but
>> > > his name symbolically represents an entire people group later in the
>> Bible.
>> > > The Hebrews were accustomed to using an individual name to
> represent an
>> > > entire group. IMO, it is not too difficult to believe they did the
>> similar
>> > > thing _backwards_ to refer to the origin of man by using a _later_
>> literal
>> > > individual Adam, who just happened to be the first in their
> geneology as
>> > > well as possessor of a name that was highly symbolic of mankind.
>> > >
>> > > This doesn't address the issues with Adam being treated as a
> historical
>> > > person in the NT, but then I think we can question if we really know
>> that he
>> > > was being treated as a historical person in the NT. Just because
> _we_
>> > > thought Adam was literal while we were reading Paul doesn't give
> us the
>> > > right to impose our assumptions onto Paul. Paul may have been more
>> > > sophisticated about the myth genre than we have been. After all, he
>> lived
>> > > in a Greek culture that was seeped in theology taught through
> myth, with
>> > > strong contacts to the identical Egyptian, Babylonian, and Roman
> uses of
>> the
>> > > genre. How could we be smarter than him in recognizing that
> genre and
>> > > knowing what's normative for it?
>> > >
>> > > Regarding your model for resolving this conflict: Personally I
>> wouldn't
>> > > pick the "clearer scence" over the "foggier Scripture" in determining
>> what
>> > > Genesis 1 was supposed to be telling us. To do so is equivalent to
>> saying
>> > > the Bible is just plain wrong and therefore we will reject it
> wherever
>> > > necessary and keep the better science in its place. Instead, I'd
> want
>> to
>> > > use conflicts with science to clue me in to where we may have
>> misunderstood
>> > > Scripture and then take a closer look at its internal evidence to
> see if
>> > > indeed we have. IMO, when we look at Genesis 1 in the light of
> science,
>> we
>> > > can break out of our prior hyper-literalism and recognize that by
> golly
>> it
>> > > actually isn't of a genre that we would normally have taken as
> literal
>> > > history.
>> > >
>> > > Phil
>> > >
>> > >
>> > >
>> > >
>> > >
>> > > ________________________________
>> > > Get the MapQuest Toolbar, Maps, Traffic, Directions & More!
>> >
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> David W. Opderbeck
>> Associate Professor of Law
>> Seton Hall University Law School
>> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
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Received on Wed Apr 9 20:31:36 2008

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