Genesis — Its Internal Clues

Letting Genesis be Genesis is a challenge — from the creationist, who wants it to be compatible with science or science with it, to the naturalist-evolutionist, who wants to debunk the text from the outset as hocus pocus. Both ends of the spectrum claim they are reading Genesis well, but not all have paid sufficient attention to the internal clues in the text.

Walter Moberly, well known Old Testament specialist at Durham University in England, has the internal clues in mind when he writes “How Should One Read The Early Chapters of Genesis?,” in S.C. Barton and D. Wilkinson’s Reading Genesis after Darwin. What Moberly wants to do is let Genesis be Genesis and not what we’d like it to be.

What do you think of Moberly’s evidence for splicing? Do you think division of labor indicates later date?

His basic conclusion is that the early chapters of Genesis reflect the splicing together of formerly separate stories so that, while the text reads well from chp 1 to 50, there are at times internal clues that various bits had different contexts originally. This view has become more and more acceptable to a wide range of evangelicals though some have to say so in hushed tones to those whom they trust. Nor should one dismiss that such a view does cut against the grain of what many believe about the Bible, though we must take a deep breath and say “I too want Genesis to be Genesis. So let’s see what it says.”

This question is not new. Origen was asking these very questions in the 3d Century AD, and he did not conclude what the conservative end of the spectrum today concludes. But I’m not concerned with Moberly’s quick sketch of Origen.

Instead of dipping into Genesis 1-3, Moberly begins with Cain and Abel. His big conclusion is that the text assumes a world that is already populated, suggesting then that it tells one major story — the need for obedience — in the categories of a world that does not assume Cain and Abel are the world’s first sons. In short, there are other people and cities around. Here are the texts:

Genesis 4:2: “Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil…” assuming a division of labor.

Gen. 4:8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” The assumption here is that it is safer to murder in the open field where no one else is around, the language and perspective a populated location.

Gen. 4:14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Again, population assumed.

Moberly doesn’t quite draw this conclusion, but I would: this kind of description shows that at work already is the doctrine of election, so prominent later in Genesis but throughout the Bible: God was working with the line that would lead to Abraham. I heard Tom Wright say election is at work in God choosing Adam and Eve from others to be the ones with the image of God. (He did not claim that Packer fans are in the other line. It’s worth thinking about.)

He finds similar internal clues in the Noah flood story, like olive trees seemingly growing though they’ve been submerged for more than a year. Cain’s descendants, by the way, are pre and post flood and this goes against the grain of all but Noah’s line surviving (Genesis 4:17-24).

Does God speak Hebrew? Did Adam speak in Hebrew? Is Hebrew the oldest language? Or, is this stuff re-writing in light of Hebrew beliefs and traditions?

Darwin, then, does not help us when it comes to the genre of Genesis but he may speak to the substance of what Genesis may or may not be about.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://Whatyouthinkmatters.org/blog Andrew Wilson

    That’s a really good point about Gen 4:8. Never seen that before!

  • Stephen W

    How are you reaching the conclusion that Cain’s descendants are post flood?

  • http://Johngreenview.wordpress.com John Thomson

    Scott

    I am not a dyed-in-the-wool creationist, however, I do think that a creationist view is the most natural reading of Genesis which never appears to be other than historical, historical that is in a sense not too different from what we understand by historical (it really happened like this). Perhaps more compelling is the understanding of the early chapters that later biblical writers seem to assume (Moses, basing the Sabbath on a seven day creation, Paul’s understanding of Adam etc).

    That being said, I am not unaware of literary features and acknowledge the challenge of science (though unsure how far to credit it’s cosmogonies). However, I don’t find the examples given very persuasive. Why should the divisions of labour be so significant? Cain may well have been hiding his fratricide from other family members – given the longevity of Adam these may have been many. As Stephen W asks, how are you reaching a post-flood generation from Cain from given text.

    It is helpful to explore the difficulties but I am not sure it is wise for either side to be too presumptuous.

  • phil_style

    Hi Scott,

    I’,m also tying to do the math to show a lineage from Cain that continues post flood. there’s no information in the text that I can find which provides useful data either way.

    The re-use of names in each lineage is a clue, but a weak one, as the name use is not consistent by generation, so it can be assumed the same names are associated with different people (i.e. Enoch, Lamech) in Gen 4 and Gen 5.

  • Norman

    Genesis appears to be literature reflecting a commentary upon the condition of diverse approaches to God. The subtle implication of Abel as a “shepherd” and Cain as a “laborer” in the fields after the assignment of his father is a clue that “works of the Law” was already recognized as a lesser approach as a sacrifice to God. The precedent of being driven out of the land due to judgment against murdering ones righteous brothers sets the stage for Jesus to condemn the later day older brother Cain’s in Matt 23 . The division of the two offspring; one with long lives but falling short of 1000 years and progressively growing shorter due to their inclination toward idolatry and corruption stage is set. See the 2nd Century BC Book of Jubilees commentary on how the 2T Jews understood these long lifespans from that perspective. Contrasted to that observation we have the offspring of Cain who were considered dead and were not included of the lineage that even had the possibility of long lives. This Commentary is built into the themes of Genesis and is a common anti priestly style that permeates much of the exilic work that abounded around the time of the First Temples destruction under Nebuchadnezzar. When you read how the Jews applied and utilized Genesis themselves right up until Christ it’s easy to see that it wasn’t taken literally but theologically and is more of a political excursion pointing toward judgment against the wrong doers both inside and outside of Israel.

    I also had come to the conclusion that Genesis 4 account below indicates a post flood perspective for those mentioned from Cain. We see that the Iron age which began after the Bronze age somewhere in the 2nd millennium BC included this lineage who were forgers of iron. It’s hard to have been attributed with those characteristics if this lineage didn’t make it through the flood period. However I don’t take the implied historicity of Genesis seriously because that’s not its main purpose ultimately.

    Gen 4:20-21 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. (21) His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron.

  • Scot McKnight

    I’m in Missouri on the road, don’t have Moberly’s book, will look about Cain’s descendants when I get back,but I think it has to do in part with Gen 4 and the Nephilim.

  • Rick

    “He did not claim that Packer fans are in the other line.”

    They are Levites, since clearly they are in the line of Aaron (Rodgers).

  • Joe Canner

    John #3: The Cain and Abel incident happened before Seth and other siblings were born (Gen 4:25 and 5:4). Therefore, in order to assume that there were other family members around when Cain murdered Abel, you have to assume that there were other siblings born before Seth, and/or that Cain and Abel had children before this incident, neither of which are “natural” readings of the text. Moreover, in order to get the numbers to work you have to cram all of this childbearing, labor diversification, migration, and city building into the 130 years before Seth was born (Gen 5:3).

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    This is really good stuff. I used to be scared to death of things like these, but lately, through thinking a lot about folk music and tales, I’m finally beginning to really understand that a story does not need to be historically accurate to be True. A narrative that is passed down orally through 100′s of generations may well have happened, but the reason it continues to be relevant for every generation is because it HAPPENS. Like a folk tale, the narrative of genesis is true because reflects timeless eternal truths that remain relevant across generations, cultures, and languages. Today, I could hear news that any old testament even was absolutely proven to have never happened and it would not lessen my faith because I have seen them all happen with my own eyes.

  • phil_style

    @Joe,
    John #3: The Cain and Abel incident happened before Seth and other siblings were born (Gen 4:25 and 5:4). Therefore, in order to assume that there were other family members around when Cain murdered Abel, you have to assume that there were other siblings born before Seth, and/or that Cain and Abel had children before this incident, neither of which are “natural” readings of the text.
    I think this is a fair argument. I guess the real question then is, do we need to assume other humans were present at this time for the story to make sense if we are to “historicise” it?
    I’m not 100% sure we need to assume others are present, although I think the textual hints cannot be dismissed. The reference to going out into the field could simply be setting up the next part, where it is “god” from whom they have hidden themselves, not other humans. ..

    Moreover, in order to get the numbers to work you have to cram all of this childbearing, labor diversification, migration, and city building into the 130 years before Seth was born (Gen 5:3).
    We need to be careful though, how many people we are requiring in order to satisfy the descriptions offered. What sorts of sized “cities” are we talking about? Could, say, 4 couples, in 100 years produce a small town’s worth of people, enough to settle in a single location?

  • phil_style

    @ Natew “I could hear news that any old testament even was absolutely proven to have never happened and it would not lessen my faith because I have seen them all happen with my own eyes”

    Indeed, although the likes of Rene Girard (yes, him again) would say that these “foundation” myths do in fact recall (albeit in a disguised manner) historical events at the formation of culture, particularly with respect to the founding murders (Cain/ Abel), which pop up time and time again in ancient literature.

  • Joe Canner

    Although his explanation is not as “spiritual” as some of the ones expressed here, Daniel Quinn, in his book Ishmael, suggests that the Cain and Abel story represents early conflicts between nomadic herders and “city” dwelling farmers over the use of the land (not unlike the struggles between native Americans and European settlers in more recent history). I find this explanation at least as plausible as either the literal interpretation or the various spiritual interpretations.

  • Joe Canner

    Phil #10: Fair points. I would agree that the evidence in either direction is inconclusive; my point was that in order to achieve one “natural” reading, you have to make other assumptions that are no longer “natural”.

    I think the Gen 4:14 evidence is the most compelling for making the point that there were others present. Cain assumes that no matter how far he wanders there will be those who want to kill him. These would have to be either siblings (and their families) who sympathized with Abel or Abel’s descendents, and who had migrated far and wide from where Cain and Abel were.

  • http://edinburgchristian.com Rob Petersen

    Dr. McKnight:

    I don’t think there is any question that there were other people around beside Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. However, for anyone, on any facet of the debate, to determine where these other individuals come from is an argument from silence.

    Using Genesis 4:8 as an argument for population seems to be pushing the envelope. Is it not just as likely that Cain wanted Abel away from the family’s tents? Could the population he was trying to avoid be his family?

  • http://paroikos.com Rob Ely

    This is a very interesting discussion. One I think creates very helpful dialogue. But help me understand…other than the mention of the book “Reading Genesis After Darwin” (which I think that title is itself very telling), where does mentioning Darwin at the end of this blog come in the picture? I see a total disconnect from the flow of the bulk of the blog from the closing line about Darwin being helpful. In what way is Darwin helpful to the discussion about the things mentioned in this blog? Is it because of the assumption that the world is already populated? How does that make Darwin helpful? What if God did create other people in the world after Adam and Eve (not saying He did, but what if?) So what? We see all through the Bible how God focuses on a specific family or people to the exclusion of everything else that’s going on in the rest of the world. That doesn’t make Genesis more or less historic. And that doesn’t mean God wasn’t doing anything in the rest of the world, either. This is actually great support for the harmony of Genesis 1 & 2 where in Gen. 1 God decreed (spoke into existence) the creation of human beings on day 6 and then in Gen. 2 it focuses on the forming of Adam’s physical body and Eve taken from Adam’s side. Are we preferring science over Scripture yet again, as if to try (at all costs, I might add) to reconcile the accepted interpretation of the one (Darwin) with the other (Genesis)? By the way, kudos to phil_style for his balance brought to the subject and to John Thompson (#3) for asking great questions.

  • phil_style

    Joe, right your point about “natural” readings is well made.
    The plain assumption from the text is that.

    1. Adam and Eve only had their third son AFTER Cain had killed Abel (Gen 4:13)
    2. Abel was of the opinion that there were “people” out in the world who might harm him. And this opinion was formed during the conversation he has with god just post the murder (Gen 4:9-14)

    So, it remains to be resolved how, within the natural reading of the text, where these others came from. One has to provide extra-textual answers to resolve the problem, these being

    1. Adam and Eve had borne daughters prior to Seth that the Bible does not mention (being male-centric with respect to lineage) AND that Abel and Cain had previously had children who had now moved away, forming this potentially hostile population, OR
    2. That Cain was predicting a future populated world, when his murdering would be remembered by other (say, Seth’s future children) and would potentially revisit him.

    In each case we are forced to invent people that the text does not identify and that it even hints against, albeit that the text does not explicitly exclude.

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    Phil_style (on Girard) – Yeah, I don’t mean to say that these events either did or did not happen. I’m just saying that these stories have been told and retold (and eventually written down) because there is deeper Truth within them than facts and history can express. They are full of real people’s experience of relationship with God! Every retelling and rewording over time has, if anything, ADDED to the Truth by distilling the myths down to their timeless, universal Truths.

    Again, I do not deny that they did happen, I just think that it is a shame to spend so much time and energy defending facts and, in the process, losing the Truth.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    If Genesis is written theologically then trying to take it biologically or scientifically or chronologically is a mistake. The story is obviously the focus on one family as a foundation for
    “beginnings.” But how does reading this story “naturally” get to our modern questions of population growth and possibly incest for the first family? Is this really what the story of Genesis is trying to teach us? What about the “spiritual” reading of the text? Is a surface reading of the text actually the best reading of the biblical text?

  • AHH

    the naturalist-evolutionist, who wants to debunk the text from the outset as hocus pocus
    Scot, what sort of polemic language is that, making it sound like all those who study nature and evolution want to disrespect the Bible? Or are you (I suspect this is the case) using “naturalist” and “evolutionist” not in their scientific senses but as pejorative labels tied to philosophical positions (like metaphysical naturalism). Tossing around those words in that way, while common for Christian culture warriors, is the sort of thing that can drive naturalists (in the sense of those who study nature) and evolutionists (in the sense of those who study evolution and/or accept that it happened) away from Jesus.
    Usually you do much better at avoiding rhetoric that sounds like it is demonizing scientists.

  • CGC

    Hi Nate,
    Great point . . .

    Hi Ahh,
    Actually I took it exactly as how the new atheists and metaphysical naturalists do in their polemical ways of debunking the Bible. Ahh, some of those people are scientists! I did not take Scot’s words as either directed at the methodology of science or evolution itself as contrary the Bible or a religion. It’s some scientists and atheists who use evolution as a club against the Bible and its creation narrative. I know you are a scientist but I got what Scot was saying even if his wording was not as clear for you.

  • http://tspringersl@gmail.com Tony Springer

    My thoughts are somewhat in the ballpark. Genesis Rabbah, the fourth century midrash, had an interesting take on Cain and Abel.
    They remarked on how Cain rose up from the ground [4:8; other English translations (NASB, NRSV) keep the KJV that Cain "rose up"] because Abel had knocked him on the ground first (the first retaliation?).
    Also, the rabbis posited reasons for the kerfuffle that included fighting over a woman. That conclusion also goes with the identity of Eve and Adam’s son’s spouses: other human populations or their sisters (as mentioned in post 15).

  • AHH

    CGC @21, you “got” what Scot was saying, and I was pretty sure that was what he meant, and probably most readers of this blog did too.
    But such rhetoric, without qualification to make clear that one is talking about people like Richard Dawkins instead of all evolutionary scientists, is missionally disastrous. When my scientific colleagues (who don’t know that many Christians use “evolutionist” as a philosophical label rather than a description of science) see words like that from Christians it comes across as an attack on all science and scientists, not just the aggressive atheists like Dawkins.

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

    Years ago I read the book The Hidden Book of the Bible by Richard Friedman. It attempts to tease out the differing sources which were edited together to form the early Hebrew scriptures. Coming from a fairly conservative Evangelical perspective, the very idea of the book of Genesis being edited together rather than written as a narrative history was quite challenging at the time. Now that I’ve had more years to study and think about it, I’ve come to see what a vital role the editors of scripture played in putting together this inspired book we call scriptures. It is hard to let go of what you think Genesis is saying and consider other options. It feels very threatening. But scripture is scripture and can stand up to this level of scrutiny and re-thinking.

    BTW, I recently read a blog post on the story of Cain and Abel which posits that it represents a conflict between innovation and tradition. The argument was that Cain was engaged in the family trade – farming while Abel had adopted a new way of life – herding. God accepts offerings of both Cain and Abel, but since Abel was engaged in something new offered praise for his offering. A bit of encouragement, if you will. Cain reacted the way that people tend to react to having their settled ways of doing things challenged – by feeling threatened, angry and perhaps even trying to remove the perceived threat. I thought it was an interesting, novel way of looking at a story which kind of doesn’t make sense on the face of it. The post is here:
    http://drewdowns.net/2012/08/23/abel-was-a-creative/

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    So Adam and were selected from among other humans to be the beginning of the Abrahamic line. Are there ancient Jews who grasped this? I seem to recall that many ancient Jews also sought to find concordance between stories in Gen 1-11 and believed Adam to be the first of all humanity. I haven’t made a study of this. I’m honestly curious.

    Also, it seems to me that Gen 1 can be seen as a story apart from what follows, as a story about God’s sovereignty and purposes for creation. Gen 2 picks up with the story of Adam, Eve, and the story of Israel. Am I getting that right?

    BTW, Scot, #7 “I’m in Missouri on the road …” I’m glad God has brought you into the promise land (and the home of the Cardinals.) ;-)

  • AHH

    Or CGC @20, strange how the numbers seem to jump around sometimes …

  • John I.

    “Genesis which never appears to be other than historical,”

    It only appears this way from the perspective of, and under the assumptions of, a member of western civilization steeped in Enlightment ideas about history, which have become the common assumption about how history is to be done and the kinds of questions it answers.

    I suggest, on the other hand, that Genesis never appears to be historical to the ANE people who passed on the story orally, and to those that wrote it down. The use of parallelism, ANE themes, the subject matter, the point being made, the structure of the tale, etc. all point to it not being historical in the sense of Joshua, 1 & 2 Kings, or Nehemia.

    J.

  • Mark Edward

    Posts #2 and #4,

    From the sounds of Scot’s comment in post #6, it immediately made me think of the following theory: the ‘daughters of men’ in Genesis 6 were descendants of Cain. Their children were the nephilim, and the nephilim are found post-flood in the Biblical narrative. Hence, Cain’s descendants survived the flood. If this is the theory being mentioned, it’s not one I hold to, but that is how it usually goes.

    While on the topic of the nephilim and how to read Genesis 1-11 (and beyond), I’ll provide my own thoughts, and let others follow up. When the Israelites are in the wilderness after the exodus, there are a handful of references to a tribe of people who are extraordinarily tall (in relation to the Israelites). A variety of names are used for them: rephaim, emim, anakim, and so on. Part of the narrative explain how some of the settlements of these large people included the cities that would later be inhabited by the Philistines, including Gath. Some individuals included Og king of Bashan (Deut 3.11), the four descendants of the rephaim in Gath (2 Sam 21.22), and circumstantially Goliath of Gath. The narrative also tells us that the rephaim are descended from the man name Anak (hence the alternate name anakim), who was a nephilim (Num 13.33).

    The way this reads to me, is that the account in Genesis 6.1-4 was not meant to be a developed story, but rather a brief explanation for where the rephaim came from (before the flood) and why they were so huge (they were born from angels and human women). This would mean that part of Genesis 6 (at the least) was written or redacted in a time well beyond the exodus. How late that was is indeterminate, but I would guess that Genesis 6.1-4 was one of the minor anachronisms pointing to a post-exodus or post-David era (e.g. Genesis 14.14; 36.31).

  • Mark Edward

    #24 Michael,

    In the Prayer Of Joseph (pseudepigraphical book from the first century AD) has Jacob claiming, ‘I am the first-born of every creature which God caused to live.’ At least to this particular Jewish writer, Jacob was the first of humanity, but it is an obviously figurative declaration. I don’t know of any ancient sources where Adam was not considered the first of humanity, but such could be a figurative declaration that became equated with a literal one. (Based on the so-called ‘internal clues’, I interpret Adam as the federal head of humanity, rather than the literally-first human.)

    As to your second comment (Genesis 1 is creation of the universe, Genesis 2 is the beginning of Israel), yes, that is more or less the idea.

  • David Koyzis

    I preached a sermon on Noah a few years ago and came up with three possible theories about the Cainite and Sethite lines.

    1) Perhaps the author(s) meant to imply that the two lines intermarried, with identical names representing the same person, who is thus conceived to be the heir of both evil and good, of sin and redemption. In this respect, Noah is descended from both lines, and thus Cain’s line continued after the flood at least in the person of Noah and his descendants.

    2) Genesis 5 tells us that Noah’s father was named Lamech. Was it the same Lamech who avenged himself on the young man who had injured his somewhat fragile ego? Obviously we don’t know for certain, because the text doesn’t tell us. Nevertheless, we are told that the three sons of the “first” Lamech divided themselves among three core occupations: the herding of livestock, artistic and intellectual pursuits, and manufacturing. What is missing? Agriculture. But then we read in chapter 9, verse 20, that Noah was “the first tiller of the soil.” Might he have been the fourth son of that same Lamech, completing the list of basic occupations? This would suggest once again that the two Lamechs are perhaps meant to be the same person.

    3) Lamech apparently means “to make low” or “despairing” in Hebrew. Perhaps the authors were simply trying to indicate that the two familial lines had grown more alike than different, and used the same or similar names to illustrate this. Thus despite their divergent origins in rebellion and faithfulness, the similarities between the two lines now outweighed their differences. Both were now irremediably wicked. By the time of Noah both lines had degenerated to a low point. The double use of the name Lamech is meant to indicate this.

    I’m sure I’m not the first to come up with these theories, but I’ve not done an exhausting search of the commentaries to see who might have got there first.

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    #28 Thanks Mark. Very helpful.

  • Mark Edward

    #29 David,

    Theory number 3 is interesting. I don’t think theory 1 would work, technically, as Cain’s parallel is Cainan, the son of Seth, Cain’s brother. Number 2 is something I’ve considered as well; if we consider momentarily the Documentary Hypothesis, then it is worth noting that if we read only the ‘Yahwist’ source, we’re left with Cain’s descendant Lamech being the father of Noah.

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    Sorry for the long comment. Lots of thoughts collided today and this is the outcome. I I had my own blog is share it there, but I think it’s relevant to this discussion:

    If you were to ever really listen to and learn about Bob Dylan, you’d find that these discussions about the historicity and meaning of genesis reflect precisely what frustrated him so much with people’s approach to his music. 

    People would listen and recognize the profundity and brilliance of his poetic and prophetic lyrics, but their first question was always “What is this song about? What does it MEAN?”  

    He sang songs, like the heartbreaking “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”, and people started coming up with theories about what each line referred to. Most identified  “Hard Rain” with nuclear fallout, for instance. Every song that he sang that mentioned a woman would have the media trying to figure out which ex girlfriend the song was talking about. 

    Dylan, though, refused to let anyone pin his lyrics down. When asked about his songs his usual answer seemed to be something like, “I don’t know. What do you think it’s about?” Every time a group tried to claim him as their spokesman—whether war protesters, his “generation”, or Right Wing Christianity—he would run the other direction. 

    People just couldn’t help but try to attach all sorts of concrete meanings to his lyrics and, according to Bob, they were always wrong. His songs about women aren’t about his relationships. Maggie’s Farm isn’t a place he worked as a teenager. “Mr. Jones” isn’t some executive at Columbia records. 

    So, was he just making stuff up that rhymed? Was henreally not trying to express anything in his lyrics? Or did he write songs that refused to be pinned down precisely BECAUSE he wanted to somehow communicate a deeper Truth; one that lies always just beyond the reach of language?

    Even more interesting (and pertinent to the discussion of Genesis) is Dylan’s relatively recent autobiography. It is written like any other biography, detailing events during several transitional periods in dylans life, but critical research has shown that a significant portion of the dialogue, descriptive language, and even events are not his own, but are drawn from folk songs, blues and jazz musicians, poetry, classic literature, travel guides, and numerous other sources. In other words, interested people have  PROVEN that much of what he says in his biography NEVER HAPPENED TO HIM. The thing is, even though he credits very few sources, no serious critic accuses him of plagiarism or dishonesty. These anomalies are there because Dylan, again, is searching for ways to say more than said. If you were to seek out and become familar with his sources you would find much MORE insight and truth about Bob Dylan’s heart, mind, and soul than a chronological series of facts could ever say. By using the words of others Dylan is creatively appropriating the lives and experiences of those who have influenced him into his own story, relating depth and nuance that are part of his story, but in a way that cannot be expressed via historical facts and events. By falsifying details his story becomes MORE true and reveals MORE about him than it could if it were 100%historically true. 

    I think it’s the same with the Bible, especially the Book of Genesis. 

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    After reading the full article by Moberly, he seems very at home to take Historical-critical interpretations for answers to Genesis which from my persepctive have little to nothing to do with what the original writer/s wrote concerning the meaning and message of Genesis. We would be a lot better off following the early church fathers than modern scholars utilizing presupossitions and methodologies that are totally foreign to the original context and meaning of the writers of Scripture.

  • Craig Wright

    Those who want to have Adam and Eve as the first and only humans assume that because of long age spans that women produced many children, so that Cain would marry his sister. The biblical text never assumes this. In Gen. 5, there are lists of people living for hundreds of years and only having a few children. It is possible that only a few sons are mentioned for the fathers, out of many other children, but I think that Noah gives us an example. Noah was five hundred years old, and only had three sons, and no other daughters. Genesis and 1 Peter 3: 20 both say this. So, there had to be other people out there for Cain to marry, to hunt down Cain, and for Cain to establish a city.

  • John I.

    “Moberly, he seems very at home to take Historical-critical interpretations ”

    Actually, throughout his career Moberly has taken care to not blindly follow historical critical interpretations or to give them excessive weight, and on the other hand not to ignore them. He is favourably disposed to more literary approaches, and selfconsciously wants the Bible to have meaning to modern churchgoers in the Anglican fellowship (firstly) but also to the wider church community.

    I find him to be on the more conservative side, but then I’m not a fundamentalist.

  • Patrick

    IMO, to understand this text is to understand the ancient near eastern context it was written into.

    That means first of all it is not scientific at all. Second, the creation story itself is a theological treatise against Egyptian and Babylonian deities and for Yahweh’s pre eminence as the only creator God while using the cosmology of the Egyptians which the Jewish audience would be very familiar with having spent 4 centuries hearing it in Egypt.

    I think the author is right in discerning the “splicing together” of stories. The final editing of the Hebrew texts seems to have come post Babylonian exile and the “anti Babylonian gods” commentary does appear to exist in Genesis’ cosmology as well as anti Egyptian gods stuff.

    Since Jesus used Abel’s murder as the beginning murder in a context of biblical murders to justify pronouncing judgment on Jerusalem, it’s difficult to imagine He thought that story is a myth. 70 AD sure is no myth.


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