RE: [asa] Was Adam a real person?

From: Dick Fischer <>
Date: Thu Apr 10 2008 - 10:26:10 EDT

When the King James translation of the Bible was produced in 1611,
nothing was known of geology. James Hutton, the father of geology,
wasn't born until 1726. Anthropology was an unknown science, and the
history of the ancient Near East has come to light only in the last 160
years. So the translators labored in a vacuum of mitigating evidence
that would have helped them immensely. The result is that Genesis in the
KJV is virtually stuck in the 17th century.
One would think that modern versions would have corrected any
discrepancies in Genesis 1-11 imbedded in the KJV by now. Such is not
the case. Although some words are updated, the overall impression
Genesis gives in all versions has remained virtually unchanged.
Although some Genesis commentaries have paid lip service and
acknowledged that certain parallel accounts predate the Genesis
narrative, this has not been reflected in modern Bible versions due
largely to the fact that not enough evidence had been accumulated to
alter a biblical scenario that has become time honored and ingrained in
Christian theology.
Naturally God would create in seven days. It corresponds with moon
phases and the seven visible wandering planets. But I think we
mistakenly carry Genesis One interpretation devices into Genesis Two and
beyond. The Elohim of heavenly creation gives way to Yahweh who brought
the covenant race into being and may have even come to dwell among his
chosen people in the embodiment of Christ.
I believe Adam should be understood as a historic personality, the first
of the covenant race, the federal head of mankind, and was introduced by
God to usher in a new period of accountability. He lived no earlier
than 7,000 years ago in southern Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq.
The flood occurred approximately 2900 BC and was judgment on the Adamic
race. The Nephilim, for example, (Gen. 6:4) survived the flood as they
were ancestral to the Anakim (Num. 13:33). The nearby Sumerians
suffered collateral damage but some survived to rebuild their flood
ravaged cities.
The dispersion in Genesis 10 precedes the Tower of Babel incident
described in Genesis 11. At least two languages were spoken in Shinar,
or Sumer, one Akkadian, the other Sumerian. So the writer did not
intend to convey that one universal language was spoken throughout the
world. Furthermore, there was no change in basic language after the
incident as recovered cuneiform texts prove Semitic nations continued to
speak in Semitic dialects.
I think we overlook the purely local and recent environment of the ten
pre-flood patriarchs. Shortly after Christianity was legitimized by
Constantine, Julian came to power and sought to reinstate paganism. One
if his talking points involved criticizing Roman subjects for their
belief that they descended from Adam. From his vantage point as emperor
he could see the different populations of the world and knew the Romans
were not of Semitic descent even though the Greeks were another story.
From a Christian perspective Julian's motives were sinister but his
reasoning on that issue was right.
The starting point of understanding Genesis is to realize that Moses
gave to the children of Israel a concise history of their ancestors. We
are privileged that we have the opportunity to look over the shoulders
of the Jews and read their history but that won't make any of us Jewish.
Dick Fischer. author, lecturer
Historical Genesis from Adam to Abraham
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Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2008 8:26 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person? (more advanced thought-forms)
There is only one reason for taking it as myth: because it can be
disproved by science. There is no hermeneutic at all possible to
indicate it (Gen. ch. 2: creation of first man named Adam) as a myth, I
I disagree. It was already known at the time of the Exodus (even
without science) that snakes generally don't talk, that eating fruit
from trees doesn't generally make you see that you are naked, and that
(in Gen. 1) plants don't grow out of the ground and bear fruit in less
than a day. So there are some elements that certainly feel mythical in
the account and the ancients weren't stupid: they would have noticed
this, too.

Also, when you look at the line of Cain and compare it to the line of
Seth, it's obvious that Cain's line is constructed for literary purposes
as a contrast. All the names in the Cain line are negative distortions
of names found in Seth's line and tell a story of mankind's corruption
and curse despite great advances in civilization. It tells the story of
"Cain" (meaning "smith" or "builder") who is under God's curse and yet
continues to "build" until at last his cursed works are destroyed in the
flood. This is so obviously a literary construction that I don't think
Moses' original audience (or Abraham's anscestors, who probably told the
same story) would ever have failed to notice.

Then also notice that a long period of time elapses between Cain and the
end of Cain's line. We like to think Seth's line is happening in
parallel with Cain's line (because in our Western way of thinking we try
to rationalize the text as if it were literal), but the text itself
doesn't seem to indicate the lines are parallel. To the contrary, it
indicates they are sequential, with Seth's line beginning after Cain's
line has gone on for a long, long time. After all the darkness and
curse of Cain, it says that then Adam knew his wife Eve and they
conceived. After Seth and his son Enosh are born, at last men began to
call on the name of the Lord. The idea is that there has been a long
time during which nobody was calling on the name of the Lord. It's
really remarkable how we Westerners fail to grasp this point,
considering that this long delay is actually a major theme of the text.
Our Western way of thinking blinds us to what an ancient person would
have found obvious. At long last, men began to call on the name of the
Lord; the Lord has done a marvelous thing by bringing the line of Seth
into existence in this world of darkness that had been built by Cain.

But if this is so, then Adam and Eve can't be literal, since they
themselves knew God and there never would have been a time during which
men were not calling on the name of the Lord if they were literally the
parents of Seth. In order for the text to make sense that there was a
long period of darkness then you have to understand that when it says
that Adam knew his wife Eve and she conceived it simply means that
humanity brought forth a unique child, different in character than those
being born in the line of Cain, but yet not literally from the same pair
of parents who gave birth to Cain. Seth would have been born into
Cain's world and been as much a descendant of Cain as anybody else at
that time. But Adam and Eve are introduced as the parents to indicate
that something new is happening, distinct from the line of Cain. If you
try to rationalize a mythological account and make it literalistic you
will get all kinds of internal difficulties and contradictions; but if
you accept the genre for what it is then it works perfectly well within
its own set of rules. (E.g., why would the Greeks' girl Pandora be
given a box with all the diseases and evil inside of it in the first
place; and why would Adam and Eve be put in a garden with a tree that
plays the same role as Pandora's box in the first place? We aren't
suppsed to ask those questions because the genre of myth was never
intended to answer them.)

Part of the reason we fail to understand the text is we try to compare
it with the geneologies, and unfortunately the dates in the geneologies
have not been translated properly. We know that they absolutely must
have been mis-translated because at the time of Abraham and earlier this
base-10 system we see in the text didn't even exist. So it must have
originally been a different number system. There are many arguments to
claim why it was originally a Mesopotamian-style system with each base
having a different value (not always 10 or 6 in each digit). So the
ages were probably just normal human lifespans, and somewhere along the
way the Jews lost the knowledge of how to translate the numbers. In the
intertestamental period the text of the OT was fixed and the numbers
were cleaned up and converted to spelled-out words to avoid future
arguments over them. In the process, we lost the evidence to
un-translate the numbers to their original form. Well, if we could put
them back to ordinary lifespans, then we'd have Seth being born after
some 18 or 20 years into Adam's life. The ancients, reading that Seth
was born after so short a period, would understand that the period of
darkness in the line of Cain prior to the birth of Seth was not
presenting us with a literal timeline. They would understand that there
was myth involved in the account of Adam and Eve and Cain, and it would
not have been a great pressing issue to harmonize the account with
literal history.

I've sketched out my thoughts on this, above, but I feel there is much
work to be done in understanding the text and that we will make progress
as we keep trying.



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Received on Thu, 10 Apr 2008 10:26:10 -0400

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