Who wrote Genesis? That important question can’t be answered definitely, as there is still so much we don’t know about the dating of the material. However, an inter-disciplinary approach to the question poses some satisfying, if not fully verifiable, answers. In this first essay in a series on the authorship of Genesis, we will consider the challenges we face when trying to date the Genesis material.
Dating the Genesis “Prehistory”
Attempts to date the so-called “primeval history” of Genesis require shifting through layers of material. And to be sure, there are layers upon layers and traces of even more remote layers. Consider for example, the structure of the unity of 3 brothers. We see this in these alignments:
Cain, Abel, Seth
Shem, Ham, Japheth
Haran, Nahor, Abraham
Ishmael, Isaac and Jokshan.
This is an important layer because is suggests this triad: Sheba, Nok and Noah
Cain and Seth belong to Sheba, indicated in Chapter 10 where we discover that Ham and Shem’s lines culminate with the same individual - Sheba. There is speculation that the largest African monument ever found may be the palace city of Sheba, found in the dense rain forest on the Atlantic coast of modern Nigeria. See: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/08/is-land-of-nod-region-of-nok.html
The wives of Cain and Seth belong to Nok. This is evident in their naming their first-born sons "Enoch" or "Nok" after their father. See: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/11/where-did-cain-find-his-wife.html and http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/04/brides-naming-prerogative.html
The wife of Lamech the Younger belongs to Noah. She is the mother of Noah of the flood. Though she is not explicitly named, we detect her pedigree through the name she gave to her first-born son.
With this information, we come to see that the hero of the flood is the descendent of Seth, by a daughter of Nok, and the child of a daughter of Noah. This is significant because it reveals the existence of 3 African kingdoms related by blood and existing at the same time.
These kingdoms existed before the material was organized in the form we have received it. Much of the narrative of Genesis is anachronistic, being told well after the time these people lived. This is evident in phrases such as “The Canaanites were in the land.” (Gen. 12:6) This means that the period represented by the people in Genesis 4 and 5 must be before the time of Abraham, Moses, David and the Babylonian captivity.
Identifying the Kinship Pattern
Interpreters of Genesis have missed a crucial observation because they assumed that the genealogical information in Genesis 4 and 5 represents doublets or the same tradition contributed by different sources. The “begets” of Genesis 4 and 5 present a very old kinship pattern which I have diagrammed and analyzed using E.L. Schusky’s Manual for Kinship Analysis. Kinship patterns are like cultural signatures. Once a pattern is identified, it can often be used to trace the origin of a people that has migrated away from their homeland. Analysis of the pattern presented in Genesis 4 and 5 directs us to West Central Africa as the probable homeland of Abraham’s ancestors. Consider this diagram:
This Lamech, designated "the Younger" by E. A. Speiser, is the father of Noah of the flood.
My diagram and analysis of this material reveals that the two lines are distinct yet inter-related by marriage of the daughters (who are not listed). The daughters married their patrilineal parallel cousins and named their first-born sons after their fathers. (See: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/11/where-did-cain-find-his-wife.html) The key to understanding the pattern is Naamah, Lamech's daughter. She married her patrilineal parallel cousin Methuselah (Gen. 5:26) and named their first-born son Lamech, after her father. This pattern is evident throughout the Genesis 4 and 5 genealogical record.
Likewise, Cain's daughter married her cousin Enosh and named their first-born son Kenan. "Kain" (or Cain) and "Kenan" are linguistically equivalent names. Irad's daughter married her cousin Mahalalel and named their first-born son Jared. Irad and Jared are linguistic equivalents. Methushael's daughter married her cousin Enoch and named their first-born son Methuselah, again linguistic equivalents.Factoring the daughters into the genealogical picture clarifies the kinship pattern of Abraham's ancestors. The consistency of the pattern throughout Genesis 4 and 5 supports the biblical claim that this genealogical material presents biological father-son descent rather than a telescopic view, and it is not a case of literary doublets.
Now where do we find the pattern today? It is found among groups in West Central Africa. It is a unique pattern, a kind of cultural signature of clans and metal working chiefs in Niger, Nigeria and in the grasslands of Cameroon (See the research of Emmanuel Vubo, here: http://www.africa.kyoto-u.ac.jp/kiroku/asm_normal/abstracts/pdf/26-3/26-3-2.pdf).
What is the significance of this finding? It indicates that Abraham’s ancestors came out of West Central Africa. We also find that Cain and Seth married sisters who named their first-born sons, Enoch (Hanock) after their father. So the patriarch of this family is not mythological Adam, but historical Enoch, and the African form of this name would be the bi-consonantal “Nok.”
Hebrew prefers tri-consonantal names, but the Chadic languages of central Africa prefer bi-consonantal names. Therefore the name that should appear at the head of the family tree is Nok, not Adam. The region of Nok extended from the Benue River northward to Jos and westward to within about 200 miles of the present day city of Kaduna. (It was bordered on the east by the region on Noah, called Bor-Nu.) See map of the region of Nok at http://www.mcdonald.cam.ac.uk/iarc/culturewithoutcontext/issue6/darling.htm
The biblical support for this appears in Psalm 8:4 which reads, “What is man [enosh] that you are mindful of him, the son of man [ben adam] that you care for him?” The parallelism of the Hebrew makes it clear that the historical Enosh is regarded as progenitor just as the archetypal Adam is regarded as progenitor.
Dating Noah’s Flood
Then there is the challenge of dating the great flood of Noah. Whether one follows the eastern tradition of the story (Mesopotamian) or the western tradition (central African), one reaches the same conclusion that the flooding was the result of a prolonged period of rain and wetness, memorialized by these words: “forty days and forty nights.” (For more on the 2 traditions, see: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/04/afro-asiatic-dominion.html)
Using the Nok connection and Noah’s flood as our points of reference, we can propose a time period for the people listed in Genesis 4 and 5. They would have lived between the time of the central African chief, Nok, and before the flooding that took place throughout the Afro-Asiatic Dominion (http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/11/linguistic-evidence-for-afro-asiatic.html). Noah’s flood likely occurred during the Guirian Wet Period, which lasted from about 5500 to 2550 B.C., and the artifacts of Nok suggest that the founding of that civilization can’t be dated before about 2550 B.C. Wherever we place the noble clans of Genesis 4 and 5 in history, it is clear that they do not pertain to the dawn of humanity.
Dating the Peoples of Genesis 4 and 5
The evidence suggests that 3 lines inter-married: the lines of Sheba, Nok, and Noah, and these represent historical people who lived in West Central Africa between about 10,000 and 8,000 years ago. This helps us in determining the author of Genesis because it poses a key question: Who would have had access to this information?
If Genesis is the record of God’s intervention among Afro-Asiatics before the emergence of a people called Israel, it is a record of distant antiquity. This poses the challenge of constructing a picture of the ancient world to which the Genesis prehistory alludes. Until recently, the picture has been one of Mesopotamian peoples from whom Abraham is selected by God to have a special covenantal relationship. But what if Abraham’s ancestors didn’t come from Mesopotamia? What if they came out of Africa, as the pedigree of Genesis 4 and 5 suggests? Then we must look for clues to help us understand the relationship between the Mesopotamian context of Abraham and the African context of his ancestors Cain, Seth and Noah.
There are 2 ways to approach this. We may assume that the similarities between the sacred stories of the ancient Fertile Crescent and the Indus River are due to a westward migration of Semite nobles. If this is the case, than the Genesis prehistory takes part of the story from pre-Vedic legends of creation and early humanity. This would account for the correspondence between the Hindu heroes Adimo, Heva, Sherma, Hama and Jiapheta and the Genesis persons Adam, Eve, Shem Ham, and Japheth. But what if the reverse is true? What if the correspondence is due to the eastward movement of Abraham’s ancestors from West Central Africa to Ur and Haran? This is the more likely scenario given everything we know about the northeast migrations of peoples from Africa to Mongolia.
If the migration is eastward and the stories reach as far as the Indus River Valley, these stories must be viewed as a seedbed of the Afro-Asiatic Dominion, a vast civilization that extended from West Central Africa to India, far too large an area to be able to identify a clearing house for all this information. However, there is a time in Israel’s history when all this information was greatly valued: during the reign of King David, whose ancestry is Afro-Asiatic. This is why some scholars propose that the material in Genesis was compiled around 1000 B.C. This makes sense when we consider that during David’s reign commerce and cultural exchange was directed both toward African kingdoms and toward the Mesopotamian kingdoms, and there was a good deal of interest in pedigree to validate David’s claim to the throne.