Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ignoring Anthropologically Significant Data

Alice C. Linsley

The website of the American Scientific Affiliation has papers from the ASA journal, or presentations given at ASA meetings, or works by individuals associated with the ASA that address Genesis 1-3. The authors generally agree that these chapters must be understood in the context of the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE), specifically Mesopotamia. None have explored the older Nilotic background of the material, which is indicated by the Genesis 10 designation of Abraham's ancestors as descendants of Kush. We find Abraham, the son of Terah (priest), in Mesopotamia because his ancestors were part of the Kushite dispersion that has been verified by DNA studies, anthropology, linguistics and archaeology. The marriage and ascendancy pattern of the Kushite rulers drove expansion out of the Nile Valley.

James Henry Breasted (1865–1935), director of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, in his 1916 textbook, Ancient Times: A History of the Early World, included the Nile Valley as part of the "Fertile Crescent," a term he coined. The crescent was fertile because it included major water systems that were interconnected during the African Humid Period. However, a Nilotic context for Genesis 1-3 is not considered by any of these ASA writers:

James D. Bales
Richard H. Bube
John C. Collins
Dick Fischer
Terry M. Gray
Daniel C. Harlow
Armin Held
Charles E. Hummel
Conrad Hyers
Lee Irons
Thomas Key
Meredith Kline
Denis O. Lamoureux
Paul Seely
William F. Tanner
Edwin Walhout
John Walton
Davis A. Young
G. Douglas Young

All of these scholars would describe themselves as "Evangelicals" who take Scripture seriously, yet they ignore anthropologically significant data provided in Genesis.

Related reading: The Themes of Genesis 1-3; Rightly Reading Genesis 1-3; The Fertile Crescent and the Cradle of Civilization; Abraham's Ancestors Came Out of Africa; Abraham's Kushite Ancestors; The Genesis King Lists; Denis Lamoureaux's 2013 ASA Lectures; Genesis in Anthropological Perspective; Alice C. Linsley's posts at ASA Website; Water Systems Connected Nile and Central Africa

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mother's House and Father's House

East African village

Alice C. Linsley

Among the Nilotic peoples children are valued and raised by the whole community or village. Traditional rites of passage included circumcision, scarification, naak, and the building of small huts. Among some Nilotic peoples, before girls come of marriage age (13-15 years) they build their own huts next to the huts of their mothers. They mimic female adulthood until they marry, at which point they take down their small hut and move into a larger hut built by their husband and located with his kinsmen (called patrilocal residence).

Similarly, young men celebrate their approaching manhood by building a small hut next to their father's hut until they take a wife, at which time they build a larger hut. 

The mother's house is where women gather to plan weddings and ceremonies for the girls. The father's house is where the elders of the village gather to deliberate. Sometimes marriages are arranged here, but the women are the ones who make the actually arrangements for weddings and the setting up of a new household.

This practice of hut or house building is alluded to in the book of Ruth where Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to return to their "mother's house" so that they can prepare to remarry. Contrast this to the story of Judah and Tamar (Gen. 38). Judah's sons who were married to Tamar die one after the other. He refuses to fulfill the levarite marriage law, fearing that he might lose another son. Judah tells Tamar to return to her "father's house" which is to say, "You will remain a widow and childless."

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Doctrine of Creation and the Doctrine of the Church

1662 Memorial to Richard Hooker (1554-1600)
in Bishopsbourne church, line etching by William Faithorne

Alice C. Linsley

Richard Hooker is a saint at repose who in that state must surely be amused that his great theological reflections are gaining some popular attention among modernists and non-Anglicans. He has much wisdom to offer at this time of great confusion about the Church.

I acquired Hooker's complete works from a member of the Antiochian Orthodox Church where I worshiped through a remarkable circumstance, and since that time I have been reading through the volumes at my leisure. (This was one of several peculiar incidents which led me to believe that my Lord Jesus might be directing me back to the Anglican Way.) 

Of course, Hooker's most famous work is the Lawes of Ecclesiasticall Politie, first issued as a folio in sixes by John Windet in 1593. Another volume appeared in December 1597, and after that year "it was customary to sell both volumes together." From 1604, Hooker's work was printed as Books I-IV. 

The story of how the Lawes came to print is remarkable in itself, but by the grace of Almighty God, the work was birthed into the world. Against the puritan dissent of the state's ordinances for the running of the Church, Hooker insisted that they were not qualified for that task by virtue of their poor handling of Scripture, which would certainly produce a polity that was wrong by the measurements approved by Scripture and the Fathers' consensus on Scripture. (The 1571 Canon requiring subscription to the Articles of Religion instructs the clergy “not to teach anything except what is agreeable to the doctrine of the Old and New Testament, and what the Catholic Fathers and the ancient Bishops have collected from the same doctrine.”)

Hooker's Lawes isn't merely about how to run the Church. It is about the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ. The body has structure and works in an orderly way as directed by the Head. In other words, Hooker's understanding of church polity is closely aligned to his understanding of what the Bible teaches about creation. In both the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of the Church, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, is central and lifted up. Both show forth the glory and beauty of God's holiness. No group may claim to know better how to re-form the Body of Christ. Indeed, no group has this authority; neither Rome, nor the Puritans, nor even the Church of England.

While this connection between the doctrines of creation and the church is well developed in the Lawes, it is in the "Dublin Fragments" that I find the most satisfying delivery of this relationship. This is found in IV: The creation and governance of the world not yet considered as being evill. And touching the first beginning of evill in the World.  I reproduce that section here for readers to contemplate. I have retained the Elizabethan English, which should not be difficult for readers to follow.

It should be noted how far the Church of England departed from Hooker and Scripture on the doctrine of creation in the 1939 report on Doctrine in the Church of England. Is it any surprise then that the Church of England has also departed from the Scriptural understanding of the Church?

This is how the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, subtly dismissed Hooker's contribution:

"I doubt whether he could have entertained any idea that the moral law set out in Scripture was anything other than lastingly valid, and, despite arguments to the contrary, I can't see him easily accepting alternatives to patriarchy as the basis of human (and therefore ecclesial) government. Yet there remains something about his approach to the Church's nature and basis that may offer a few pointers for a theology of Christian belonging less obsessively anxious about the humanly policed limits of the Church than some of our current styles of thought."
(From here.)

Richard Hooker
The Dublin Fragments

IV: The creation and governance of the world not yet considered as being evill. And touching the first beginning of evill in the World.

Wherefore to come to the operations or effects of Gods will, because his eternall and incomprehensible being, is soe allsufficinet, as nothing could moove him to worke, butt only that naturall desire which his goodnes hath to shew and impart itselfe, soe the wisest of the verie heathens themselves, which have acknowledged that he made the World, now that noe other reason thereof can be yeelded butt this, his mere goodness, which is likewise the cause, why it cannot be, butt that the world which he hath created, he should love soe farre forth, as it is the workmanship of his hands.

Seing then that good is before evill in dignitie and in Nature (for we cannot without good define and conceive what evill is:) and of good things that come to passe by the will of God, the first is the end which his will proposeth, and that end is to exercise his goodness of his owne nature, by producing effects wherein riches of the glorie thereof may appeare: for as much as all other effects are grounded upon the first existence or being of that which receiveth them; the first determination of God for the attainement of his end, must needes be creation, and the next unto it governance. For that he which created should governe, and that he which should guide, seemeth reasonable in all mens eyes. Whereupon wee come to observe in God two habilities or powers, his power to create, and his power to rule; in regard of the one, wee terme him our God, in respect of the other, our Lord, and King. As God, Creator or Father of all, he hath noe will but only to be gracious, beneficiall, and bountifull. As Lord, both mercie and wrath come from him; mercie of his owne accord, and wrath by occasion offered. Butt his providence, the roote of both is over all. All things have their being from him, by him their continuance, and in him their end. In power he ordaineth them, butt yett with gentlenes; mightily, butt yet in amiable manner. Soe that under him they feele noe unpleasant constrait, framed they are to his inclination without violence to their owne, such is the course of his heavenly Regiment, such his wisdome to ovre rule forceably without force. This providence of God is both generall over the kindes of things, and such alsoe as extendeth unto all particulars in each kind.

Of things created, the noblest and most resembling God, are creatures indued with the admirable guifte of understanding. St. Augstin comparing the first matter whereof all things are made with these last and worthiest workes of Gods hands, saith of the one, it is little above the degree of nothing; the other, little inferior to God, the Creator of all. If God then, clothe the lilies of the field, and provideth foode for the birds of the aire, should we thinck that his Providence hath nott allwayes as especiall care, as well of each particular man, as of mankind, and that for our greatest good everie way, unles some great thing occasion the contrarie. The work of Creation itselfe therefore, and the government of all things simply according to the state wherein they are made, must be distinguished from that which sinne arising afterwards, addeth unto the government of God, least wee runne into their error, whoe blende even with Gods verie purpos of creation a reference to eternall damnation and death.

Concerning his intended worke of creation and government simplie in itselfe considered by the effects which are seene, it may in part be understood what his secret purposes were, and that amongst sundry other more hidden determinations which were in God, these for examples sake are manifest: amiablie to order all things, and sutablie with the kindes, degrees, and qualities of their nature; not to be wanting unto reasonabe creatures in things necessarie for the attainement of their end; to give unto Angells and men happiness in the nature of a reward, to leave them indued with sufficient abilitie in the hands of their owne will; to enjoyne them their dutie, to shew them the danger which they might avoide, and must sustaine if they did not avoide. It being therefore the will of God to make reasonable creatures the liveliest representations of his owne perfection and glorie, he assigned by actions of mist dignitie, proceeding from the highest degree of excellencie, that any created nature was to receive from him. To Angells and men there was allotted a three fold perfection, a perfection of the end whereunto they might come, eternall life, a perfection of dutie whereby they should come, which dutie was obedience, and a perfection of State or qualitie for performance of that dutie. The first was ordained, the second required, and the third given. For presupposing that the will of God did determine to bestowe eternall life in the nature of a reward, and that rewards grow from voluntarie duties, and voluntarie duties from free agents: it followeth that whose end was eternall life, their state must needes implie freedome and libertie of will. A part therefore of the excellence of their nature, was the freedome of their will, and in this respect necessarie, that he whose will was to governe them in Justice, should strictly tie them to the constant observation of requisite offices, by the possibility as well of endlesse perdition and woe if they fell away, as of like felicitie if they continued for a tyme, that which they ought and might have done. Out of the libertie wherewith God by creation indued reasonable creatures, Angells and men, there insued sinne through their owne voluntarie choice of evill, neyther by the appointment of God, not yet without his permission. Not by appointment, for it abhorreth from the nature of God, to be outwardly a sharpe and severe prohibitor, and under hand an author of sinne. Touching permission, if God doe naturallie hate sinne, and by his knowledge foresee all things, wherefore did not his power prevent sinne, that soe his naturall desire might be satisfyed? Because in wisdome (whereupon his determinate will dependeth:) he saw it reasonable and good, to create both Angells and men perfectly free, which freedome being a part of their verie nature, they could not without it be that which they were; butt God must have left them uncreated if not indued with libertie of minde. Angells and men had before their fall the grace whereby they might have continued if they would without sinne, yet soe great grace God did not thinck good to bestowe on them, whereby they might be exempted from possibilitie of sinning, because this latter belongeth to their perfection whoe see God in fullnes of glorie, and not to them, whoe as yet serve him under hope. He saw it reasonable alsoe to graunt them power touching all events on their libertie, to shew them how they might use it to their owne everlasting good. Butt if himselfe having thus with great good reason determined, his power should after have interposed itselfe for the hinderance of their choice eyther in good or evill, asto hinder them the one way, could not have stood with the puritie of righteousness, soe the other way to lett them, had beene against the constancie of wisdome, which is in him whose greatnes nothing doeth more beseeme, then to be one and the same for ever. and not to stop the events of mutabilitie in himselfe.  Consider (saith Tertullian:) what divine fidelitie requireth, and thou wilt never mervaile, although for preservation of that which was according to the will of God, his power hindred not that which was greatly against his will. Wee see therefore how sinne entred into the World. The first that sinned against God was Satan. And then through Satans fraudulent instigation man alsoe. The sinne of Devills grew originallie from themselves, without suggestion or incitement outwardie offred them. They kept not the State of that first beginning which they had from God, and as our Saviour himselfe saith of them, they stood not in the trueth, whereby it may be verie probablie thought, that happiness even of Angells depended chiefly upon their beleif in a trueth which God did reveale unto them, the trueth of that personall conjunction which should be of God with men. For Christ,although a Redeemer only unto men, might notwithstanding bee revealed unto Angells as their Lord, without any reference att all to sinne, which the knowledge of Christ a Redeemer doth neessarilie presuppose: Soe that man their inferior by degree of Nature, they must in Christ, the Son of God advanced unto soe great honor adore. Which mysterie the too great admiration of their owne excellencie being soe likelie to have made incredible, it is unto us the more credible, that infidelitie through pride was their ruine. As alsoe envie maketh them ever sithence the first moment of their owne fall, industrious as much as in them lyeth to worke ours, which they can only doe as solicitors and instigators. Our sinne therefore in that respect, excuseth us not, butt wee are therewith justlie charged as the authors of it ourselves. Touching God, though he stopp it not, he neither coveteth nor approacheth it, he noe way approoveth, he noe way stirreth, or tempteth any Creature unto it. It is as naturall unto God to hate sinne, as to love righteousness. Amongst the Jewes twoe hundred yeares before Christ, there were, as it seemed, men which fathered sinne and iniquitie upon Gods ordinance: under the Apostles there is some shew that the like was broached. The Valentinians, the Mationites, and the Manichees being perswaded, as the trueth is, that one and the same God cannot wish, love, or approove both vertue and vice, both good and evill, ascribed willingly the one to that God most just and righteous, whome wee all worship: but vainely imagined that the other hath growne from some other God of equall power and of contrarie disposition. Of late the Libertines have reduced both unto God againe, they have left noe difference betweene good and evill, butt in name only. They make all things in Gods sight to be alike, God the worker, man, but his instrument, and our perfection to consist only in casting out that scrupulositie, conscience, and feare, which wee have of one thing more than another. Of all which heretical devices, the fountaine is that secret shame wherewith our nature in itselfe doth abhorre the deformitie of sinne, and for that cause studie by all meanes how to finde the first originall or if elswhere. Butt for as much as the glorie of God hath beene defended first by Jesus the Sonne of Sirach, against blasphemers in his tyme; by St. James against the wicked of the Apostles dayes, against the Valentinians and afterwards by Irenaeus, by Tertullian against the Marcionites, against the Manichees by St. Augustin, and against libertines, last of all Calvine. To whose industrie alone, wee owe the refutation of their impietie. Wee may well presume, that of this the whole Christian world agreed, all denying God to be the author of sinne.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Wisdom! Let Us Attend.

1812 Ukrainian (Kyiv) Icon 
Sophia, the Holy Wisdom

Alice C. Linsley

Genesis 1 describes when God began the work of creation. It uses the words tohu (formless or confused) and bohu (empty or void). The Hebrew phrase "formless and void" (Gen. 1: 2) is tohu wa-bohu and is of Nilotic origin. The word tohu in Isaiah 34:11 means "confused" so it appears that Genesis 1 refers to matter in a confused or chaotic state before God set things in order.

In Nilotic mythology chaos preceded creation. The Egyptians personified chaos (tehom) and believed that this serpent dwelt south of Yebu (Elephantine Island). However, Tehom was overthrown by Tehut, divine Wisdom, also personified. The oldest known law code was the Law of Tehut, attributed to Menes, the first ruler to unite the peoples of the Upper and Lower Nile.

The idea of Wisdom personified is found in Proverbs 9 and Proverbs 8. Here Wisdom speaks in the first person, giving an account of creation:

YHWH had me as the beginning of his way,
the earliest of his works of yore.
Of old I was woven, from the very beginning,
even before the earth itself.

When the deeps were not existent, I was birthed.
When the wellsprings were not yet laden with water,
when the mountains were not yet anchored,
before the hills themselves, I was brought forth.
Before [YHWH] made the earth abroad
and the first clods of soil,
when he established the heavens, I was there.

When he circumscribed the surfaces of the deep,
when he secured the skies,
and stabilized the springs of the deep,
when he assigned the sea its limit
(lest the waters transgress his decree)
when he inscribed the foundations of the earth,

I was beside him growing up.
I was his delight day by day,
playing with him every moment,
playing with his inhabited world
delighting in the offspring of ‘ādām.

Wisdom tells us that she “came forth from the mouth of the Most High” as the first-born before all creatures. This sounds very like the Logos of John's Gospel. The creation of the universe was a singular event according to the Bible. Everything that was created in the beginning was created from nothing (creatio ex nihilo). God did not create from preexisting elements or from the substance of a previously existent world. God's power is in the Word which goes forth from God and unfailingly generates life and existence (Isaiah 55:11). The Word is generative.

Wisdom is personified as a female who seeks a place to rest upon the earth and finds that place among the people of Jacob (Sirach 24:8) In this view, wisdom is associated with the Spirit’s presence and guidance among people of the covenant. The covenant extends to those who put their faith in the Messiah whose appearing Wisdom foretold (Genesis 3:15).

To love Wisdom is to honor the boundaries established by Wisdom. The boundaries are set by binary distinctions or what Genesis calls separation. Order is established by separating the waters above from the waters below, the seas from the dry land, the night and day, male and female, humans and the lower creatures, etc.

In the Biblical worldview there is a fixed and immutable hierarchy in the order of creation, with humans being the most like the Creator. Wisdom delighted in play with humans, a wondrous creation. In the hierarchical conception of Genesis humans rank above the other animals, the animals rank above the plants, and the plants rank above inanimate objects such as rocks. Within these tiers are the "kinds" (essentialism), each reproducing according to its kind. 

This explains why homosex and onanism are regarded as serious transgressions of the divine order in creation. Onanism was regarded as an unrighteous deed because the seed that should fall to the earth is the seed of plants, which spring forth from the earth. The seed of man should fall on his own type (the womb), from which man comes forth. Clement of Alexandria wrote, “Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted” (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2 A.D. 191).

Thales of Miletus (c. 624-546 BC) was a great observer of the natural order. He was skilled in geometry, astronomy, engineering and the natural sciences. Thales studied in Egypt and calculated the height of the pyramids from the length of their shadows. He measured the time between one solstice and the next. Thales taught that water was the original substance from which all things took form. He called Wisdom arche/archai

To love Wisdom leads to blessedness (deification/theosis/sanctification). Those who despise Wisdom are cursed. St. Paul explains that their minds are darkened and they cannot see Truth. By the ignorance in them they are alienated from the life of God (Eph. 4:18). 

Contemporary Western culture shows no honor to Wisdom. The immutable distinctions are blurred by relativism, Process Theology, reductionism, laziness, ignorance, bigotry, entitlement attitudes, and the spiritual confusion that comes from involvement in demonic activity. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Climate Studies and the Book of Genesis

Alice C. Linsley

Plato recounts that "Many great deluges have taken place during the nine thousand years" since Athens and Atlantis were preeminent. In these floods, water rose from below, and only those who lived on the mountains survived. He reports that the third great flood before Deucalion washed away most of Athens' fertile soil. [Timaeus 22; Critias 111-112]

The ancient Egyptians believed that flooding represented divine punishment of rebellion against Ra/Atum's appointed ruler. "People have become rebellious [lawless]. Atum said he will destroy all he made and return the earth to the Primordial Water which was its original state." (Genesis 1:2)

The African Humid Period

Noah was a Proto-Saharan ruler at a time when the Sahara was wet. According to Dr Kevin White, “Over the last 10,000 years, there have been two distinct humid phases, separated by an interval of highly variable but generally drying conditions between roughly 8,000 and 7,000 years ago. Another drying trend took place after about 5,000 years ago, leading to today’s parched environment.”

Noah lived during the period of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, a time of great cultural and technological achievement. This places Noah and his sons in relatively recent history, not at the dawn of human existence.

Noah's flood occurred in the region of Lake Chad in the Gurian Wet Period, also called the “Aqualithic." The latter term was coined by British archaeologist John Sutton (Journal of Africa History 1974; Antiquity 1977). This is also known as "the African Humid Period."

The Holocene Wet Period owes the abundance of water to climate cycles related to Earth's Great Year a cycle of 25,000-28,000 years), to monsoons off the Indian Ocean, and rifting that created great troughs or depressions.

The word Chad/Tchad is related to the Nilotic Luo word chaddhoreh, meaning a wound or a bruise. In Isaiah 1:6 the King James Version translates chabbarah as "bruises." The Luo word also refers to a depression where something has been cut out, plucked out, or bruised. A depression of this type is called chaddhoreh in Luo. So the name Chad describes the basin which filled with water and became Mega Chad.

About 7500 years ago Lake Chad was 130 feet deeper than it is today and covered an area of about 135,000 square miles (350,000 sq km). The footprint of ancient Mega-Chad has been confirmed by satellite photography. The Nile waters swelled from increased rainfall and cut a deeper and wider floodplain, extending well into Sudan to the west.

Fortified oasis of Djado in Niger
Ruins are about 1000 years old.

The Djado Plateau lies in the Sahara, in northeastern Niger. It is known for its cave art, but is now largely uninhabited, with abandoned towns and forts still standing. Ancient rivers cut deep canyons in the red rocky landscape. The many archaeological sites are a testament to the fact that the climate was once favorable to human habitation. There is evidence of widespread human settlements in the region over 50,000 years ago.

Ancient water systems connected the Nile and Central Africa. This is evident in the map below showing the African Sheer Zone.

Rifting, combined with prolonged rains, caused this entire region to flood. Lake Chad is located at the boundary of Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.


The eastern Sahara Desert was once home to a large lake in the White Nile Valley floor. This is likely the western boundary of Biblical Eden, a vast watery world that extended to the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and the Indus River Valley. According to this report, the mega lake was probably formed more than one hundred thousand years ago in the White Nile River Valley in Sudan.

Between 10 and 12 thousand years ago the Nile river system filled with waters from the Angolan Highlands, the result of geological uplift which created Lake Victoria and directed its excess flow north in the White Nile. The White Nile provides most of the Nile's water during the dry season.

Between 12 and 10 thousand years ago, the Nile connected to the Chadic and Niger water systems through a series of shallow lakes in the Sahara Desert. This explains the common plant and animal species found in all three water systems.

The now dry Botswanan lake basin was once a sea filled with water from the Angolan Highlands. Some of Africa's earliest human populations lived on the edges of this great lake and evidenced by thousands of man-made stone tools found there. The tools include mace heads and date to between 80,000 and 100,000 years.

As the Sahara dried out, human populations and their cattle found it necessary to move toward the major water systems of the Benue Trough, Lake Chad and the Nile. The Sahara became increasingly depopulated. In the words of Leviticus 26:19, the heavens became like iron and the earth like brass.

Arid Phase in the Southern Levant

A core drilled from the Sea of Galilee was subjected to high resolution pollen analysis for the Bronze and Iron Ages. The detailed pollen diagram (sample/~40 yrs) was used to reconstruct past climate changes and human impact on the vegetation of the Mediterranean zone of the southern Levant. The chronological framework is based on radiocarbon dating of short-lived terrestrial organic material. The results indicate that the driest event throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages occurred ~1250–1100 BC, at the end of the Late Bronze Age. Read the full report here.

Related reading: When the Sahara Was Wet: Water Systems Connected Nile and Central Africa; Genesis and Climate Change; Rock Art in Sudan and Somalia; Africa in the Days of Noah; Boat Petroglyphs in Egypt's Eastern Desert; Climate Change Indicates a Dynamic Earth; Climate Cycles and Noah's Flood

Friday, July 3, 2015

Answers to Recent Questions

Alice C. Linsley

Recently, I have received some thoughtful questions from readers and I will attempt to answer them as briefly as possible.

Question: From which son of Noah did the Nilotes come?

Nilotic peoples lived along the length of the Nile Valley long before Noah's time. This is the region of the Earth where some of the oldest human fossils have been found. These humans lived about 1.5 million years ago. Noah lived in the region of Lake Chad about B.C. 2490-2415, when the Sahara experienced a wet period.

Question: Why do you think Genesis is a reliable source of information about ancient civilizations?

This raises a question about what constitutes proper historical and anthropological investigation. Few question the value of referring to the writings of ancient historians such as Philo (25 BC - c. 50 AD), Josephus (37 - c. 100 AD), and Plutarch (46 - c. 119 AD), even though they, like Homer, blend mythical and legendary elements with historical. Secularists tend to regard religious documents as questionable sources of information, but in reality, we don't verify on the basis of history alone. We also consider the evidence of linguistics, anthropology, genetics, archaeology, climate studies and the migrations of human populations. When all the anthropologically significant data converges and aligns with the data of Genesis we have little reason to doubt the book's veracity.

Question: What inspired you to concentrate on Bible anthropology and more specifically on matters concerning the ancestors of Jesus, our Lord?

This question came from my Luo scholar friend, Wandera, with whom I have had some fascinating conversations about the parallels between words in Genesis and the Luo language.

The short answer to Wandera's question is doubt and curiosity.

About 35 years ago I was asked to teach a women's Bible study and the women wanted to study the book of Genesis. Throughout the 15-week study, the women asked excellent questions but I did not find satisfying answers for them in the many commentaries that I had been reading to prepare for the class. When the class was over I experienced a crisis of faith. I began to doubt that the material in Genesis was based on historical and anthropological realities. Perhaps that was why there were so few satisfying answers to the women's questions.

One day, I realized that I could apply my background in kinship analysis to the so-called "genealogies" of Genesis. I started by diagramming the lists of people in Genesis 4 and 5, the lines of Cain and Seth. With the diagram in hand, I began to look for a pattern that might indicate that these people actually lived. 

It took a few years and numerous other diagrams of king lists in Genesis to discover the key features of the Horite marriage and ascendancy pattern. Once the features were identified, I was able to trace the pattern through the Bible to Mary, the mother of our Lord. The pattern is consistent for the families of Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and David, from whom Jesus is descended.

Here is a segment from that first diagram. It shows that the lines of Cain and Seth intermarried (as did the lines of Ham and Shem after them.)

Lamech the Younger (Gen. 5:26), son of Methuselah by his cousin wife Naamah, ascended to the throne of Lamech the Elder (Gen. 4:20-22). He did not belong to his father's house. Methuselah's heir would have been the first born son of his first wife, who was his half-sister.

Once we understand this feature - called "the cousin bride's naming prerogative" - we are able to identify the pattern for the other Horite rulers.  For example, Abraham had two wives. Sarah was his first wife and his half-sister. Keturah was his second wife and a patrilineal cousin. Keturah named her first born son Joktan (Yaqtan) after her father. The firstborn son of the sister wife ascended to the throne of his biological father. So Isaac ruled over Abraham's territory. The firstborn son of the cousin/niece wife ascended to the throne of his maternal grandfather, after whom he was named. So Joktan ascended to the throne of his maternal grandfather. The Joktanite clans still reside in Southern Arabia.

Likewise, Moses had two wives. His Kushite wife was his half-sister and Zipporah was his patrilineal cousin. Samuel's father was the priest Elkanah and he also had two wives: Penninah and Hannah.

Kinship analysis is a science. When applied to the Genesis king lists, it reveals an authentic marriage and ascendancy pattern, proving beyond doubt that these people are historical. Is it any wonder that I reject the notion that science and Genesis are at odds?  I apply anthropological science to the text every day and the outcomes lead to further discoveries.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Cultural Context and the Bible

In response to comments at this article, a reader of Just Genesis has asked:

"Why do people insist on reading the Hebrew Scriptures as a prophetic piece, regarding the life of Jesus? Why not take the Scriptures at face value, and review them for the potential meaning they may hold in isolation? By giving everything a 'Jesus prophetic' spin, layers of meaning contained in the actual text may be missed or misinterpreted entirely. Of course, everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but I ask those who continue to read the Scriptures as purely code for the coming of Jesus, to consider the face of the text, without preconceived notions of what it might be 'code' for. These may be value in this, and humanistic insights that we may be missing entirely. My two cents."

Here is my reply:

"You make a good point. Reading Jesus Christ back into the ancient texts is not what we should do. It often results in skewed or reductionist interpretations.

On the other hand, the oldest material in the Bible does echo with expectation of the Righteous Ruler whose coming was anticipated. A rich narrative surrounds this Righteous Ruler. Christians believe that Jesus fits the pattern or template. There is reason to hold this view since Jesus' ancestry confirms that he is of the Horite ruler-priest lines among whom Messianic expectation first arose.

Biblical anthropology seeks to understand antecedents and explores the beliefs of Abraham's cattle-herding Nilotic ancestors. Until we understand their belief system and religious practices better, we will continue to misread the texts and force incorrect or inadequate interpretations on the Bible."

Related reading: Jesus: From Lamb to Ram; Genesis in Anthropological Perspective; Deified Rulers and Resurrection; Jesus' Horite Lineage