Friday, March 27, 2009

Two-Year Anniversary!

This week marks the two-year anniversary of Just Genesis. To celebrate, I have reviewed readers’ comments and posted some of my favorites. The comments are grouped by topic.

On Adam and Eve
Jacob asked:
What happens to Paul's soteriology and Christology in, e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:20ff and Romans 5:12ff, if there was no literal original Adam (and Eve, if you want to also consider 1 Timothy 2:13-14 and 1 Corinthians 11:8ff)?

My response:
Adam and Eve aren't meant to be read as historical people in Genesis, but as the mythic parents. Analysis of Genesis 4 and 5 shows that Cain and Seth however are historical and married the daughters of a chief name Enoch (Nok) in west central Africa. So in Genesis 4 there are already human populations and tribal government. Whether all the peoples of the earth came from one original mother or whether there were multiple sets of original parents, doesn't change the fact that, from the beginning, humanity has been estranged from God and only God can bridge the gap. St. Paul insists that God has accomplished this in Christ, the one perfect Man and the eternal Son. Paul urges those who are baptized “to put on Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:20ff and Romans 5:12ff don’t deal directly with soteriology, but with Paul’s platonic interpretive approach of Christology. The first man, Adam, is imperfect but the second Man, Jesus Christ, is perfect, the true Form of humanity. God made humans in God’s image and likeness, but sin marred that image so that the first created man is an imperfect type of the first uncreated Man. Paul is using Platonism to explain Jesus Christ to Corinthians and Romans who were familiar with this platonic approach. He wants them to see the pattern of revelation.

Roland wrote:
According to my friend James Kiefer, some scholars have reconstructed a pre-Biblical version of the Eden story in which the man and woman were to choose which of the two trees to eat from. God intended for them to choose the Tree of Life, but the serpent wanted immortality for himself, so he tricked our first parents into choosing the other tree. It was believed that snakes were immortal, and this story explained that "fact."In Genesis, this choice remains hidden until until Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden. Only then does it become apparent that in choosing the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they have forfeited access to the Tree of Life.

My Response:
St. John Chrysostom sees the sin of Adam and Eve as a trespass against the order of creation. Imagine a standing ladder. At the top of the ladder are humans, the crown of creation, the most complex of all living species and the fewest in number. Each descending rung of the ladder represents less complex species and at the bottom rung is plant life. Where is the serpent? Near the bottom. In obeying the creature over which God had given them dominion, Adam and Eve exchanged their God-bestowed dignity for subjection to the lowest of creatures. Why would they do this? Because we humans have a perverse tendency to betray our own natures. Read a portion of St. John's sermon on Adam and Eve's sin here.

In a real sense, every sin is a trespass against the order of creation and therefore an offense to the Creator. That is why we ask God to "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

On the Extent of Noah's Flood
Anam Cara commented:

"The loss of life among the peoples living in region of Lake Chad was apparently great."

Ummmm...... Wouldn't that be TOTAL since only Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives were saved? Or do you think that the flood was only regional and did not cover the entire earth?

My response:
The story of the great flood is told from the perspective of those whose society was destroyed by it. Genesis uses Noah to speak about a new beginning for humanity (universal concept) while describing the destruction of a particular group. During the Guirian Wet Period both west central Africa and Mesopotamia flooded at the confluence of the major rivers: the Tigris-Euphrates region and the Niger-Lake Chad depression. Remember, the peoples living in both regions were Afro-Asiatics and their ruling houses intermarried. So we shouldn't be surprised that there are 2 Noah accounts in the Bible (one with a dove and one with a raven). One represents the Western African tradition (many doves in Africa, but no ravens) and the other the Eastern Mesopotamian Tradition. In Africa, the hero is Nu (Noah) and in Mesopotamia, the hero is Ziusudra. However, there is only one place on the surface of the earth that claims to be Noah's homeland, "Bor-nu" in the area of Lake Chad. In Turkey all wet lands are refered to as "Bernu", showing that the Noah legend was accepted as true of the experience of people living there also.

Linda wrote:
Hmm. An important difference in the creation stories is that of the Christian belief that God created everything from nothing. Only Genesis relays this idea.

Also, if Adam and Eve are archetypes and not persons, what is your understanding of the fall and original sin? How did we get from "very good" to sinful down to our toenails?

Also, how do you view the river names in Genesis - Pishon, Gihon and Tigris - do these correspond to an area in Africa? Are they not to be regarded as historical? Is the modern Tigris in the middle east named for the one in Eden? It may be that Adam and Eve and their story are symbolic but I remain undecided. You have clearly been working on this for some time and your posts are very thought provoking. Good work!

My response:
A terrific comment, Linda! Africans do believe that God created ex nihilo.

Adam and Eve story perfectly describes our sinful, rebellious and fearful condition. That they chose from the Tree of knowledge rather than from the Tree of Life tells the whole story. The Church Fathers teach that the Tree of Life at the center of the garden is the Cross and all humanity tries to avoid that Tree, though it is our Life.

There are two flood accounts, representing the western and the eastern Afro-Asiatic traditions. Of the 4 rivers named, 2 are in Mesopotamia and 2 are in Africa. In Genesis 2:10-14 we are told that the Gihon flowed through all the land of Ethiopia. Ethiopians identify the Gihon with the
Abay River, which encircles the former African kingdom of Gojjam. The Pishon is also in Africa because it "skirts the whole land of Havilah" (Gen, 2:11). Havilah is a son of Cush (Gen. 10:7) and the "Cushites" lived in the upper Nile region. So two rivers are in Mesopotamia and represent the eastern Afro-Asiatic tradition while the other two rivers are in Africa and represent the western Afro-Asiatic tradition.

On the Kinship Pattern of Chiefs among Abraham's People
A Religion 301 student asked:
If only chiefs had 2 wives and status was traced through the father, how did Cain and Seth establish their lines of chiefs (listed in Gen. 4 and Gen. 5)?

My response:
They established their lines through their wives, the daughters of Nok (Enoch). Status was received from one's father, but blood line was traced through the mothers, so the Gen. 4 and 5 information is about Cain's and Seth's wives and their noble father-in-law, who was probably a priest.

On the Cosmology of Abraham’s People

Arturo asked:
This is a fascinating essay, and I thank you for posting it. Could you elaborate a bit on the reversal of the priority of direction in this passage: "In pitching his tent where he did, the house of Ain (Bethel) has moved to the west, which means that south has moved to the position of north. We have a reversal of directional poles that places south in the position of priority. South presents marriage and reproduction. In the very next verse (Genesis 12:9) we are told that Abraham heads south, making his way stage by stage to the Negev.”

Why is there a reversal? Also, your citing of the Cabala brings to mind a question: have you posted on or do you intend to post on Pico della Mirandola's Heptaplus, being that it touches on the Book of Genesis?

My Response:
I'm presently reading
Pico Della Mirandola's work On the Dignity of Man. His fascination with Cabala is evident. He, and other Renaissance thinkers seem to regard Cabala as equal to the Bible in antiquity and authority. I'm pursuing why this is so. I'd have to read his Heptaplus before I could write on him, but I hope to do so. Thanks for the suggestion.

The Afro-Asiatic cosmology is numerical (base 9) and spherical. Imagine a circle with the cardinal points North-South and East-West. These points are assigned number and gender symbolism as
binary oppositions. North and East are dominant and associated with maleness. South and West are supplementary and associated with femaleness. The association of north/1 and east/2 with GOD is based on recognition of GOD’s sovereignty. Some of this mystical number symbolism is evident in the Ten Sefirot of Cabala. Imagine a circle with North as a point at the top center. This also represents high noon, a time of no shadows. This position of priority is assigned the number 1, symbolizing the Uncreated Hidden God (Ain Soph). Directly opposite is the point south, assigned the number 6. It is associated with mortality, marriage and fertility. When the positions of 1 and 6 are reversed it means that the fleshly principle is in motion: thus Abraham takes a wife and begins a family in Beersheba. By suggestion of this reversal, the text tells us what Abraham is about to do.

Now imagine an imaginary line running from north/1 to south/6, dissecting the circle. The east side of the circle is associated with dominance/ sovereignty/strength/judgment and is assigned the number 4. The west side of the circle is associated with reproduction, new beginnings, compassion and tenderness and is assigned the number 5. Here is where we see another reversal. The feminine virtues associated with west/5 are on the dominant (east) side and the masculine virtues associated with east/4 are on the supplementary (west) side. Reversals speak of the oneness of these supplementary opposites. Unlike Western metaphysics, which grants privilege to one side of an opposition and marginalizes the opposition (as
Jacques Derrida noted), the Afro-Asiatic system maintains the male and female principles as inseparable and supplementary.

Jeremy asked:
"Among Abraham's people the Sun was the emblem of the Creator."

Can you clarify this? During the Feast of Tabernacles the people would renounce the Sun by turning away from it and turning toward the Temple. I like your assertion, but I'm not familiar with where to find it. This is certainly the Christian Tradition, but I understand it as originating with the Christianity and not with the Israelites / Jews. Perhaps by saying that it originated with "Abraham's people" you mean to say those who were children of Abraham, but not yet children of Israel? Thanks for the clarification help...nice post! Keep them coming!

My response:
Abraham's people" were Afro-Asiatics. Jews were not yet distinct from this large group. Abraham's mother was Canaanite and Sarah's mother was Aramean (modern Syria). You may want to read the posts on "Abraham's Canaanite Mother" and "Sarah's People". I'm speaking not of Abraham's descendents, but of his ancestors, some of whom were living in west central Africa.The temple was arranged so that the sun's path traversed it from East to West.

William H. Willimon’s Lenten meditation on the Binding of Isaac

Fr. Timothy wrote:
Jacob Neusner, a secular Jew and Ivy League Professor, had the honesty to say something like, "For my ancestors, God was a personality, not an idea."Thanks for posting this great bit of gold from the treasury, Alice. We too often try to tame and control God by turning the lively personality in the Bible into an "idea" of our own.But as the great Gospel of the Incarnation reminds us, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." Those of us prone to darken wisdom with our too many and too tidy words need to take note. A very humbling message.

On Holy Tradition and the Priesthood
Father Greg wrote:
Anon wrote, "How you explain Mary Magdalene (the FIRST witness of the resurrection, and if that doesn't count for preeminence next to a swearing, sucking up, coward fisherman-Peter-then we better drop the subject..."

I think everyone here agrees that Mary M., Mary & Martha, most especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, and many other Biblical women are all greatly to be honored, and indeed have a "preeminance of honor." The question for you and the pro-WO folks is: How do you explain that Christ did not appoint any of these women, nor did the Spirit-filled Apostles consider any of these as Apostolic replacements, despite bestowing/knowing well their "preeminance" of honor?

Anon, you thus have proven your grasp of the fact that these women were the most "qualified" on human terms, but were nevertheless not to be numbered among the Twelve. Thank you for your clarity in this regard.

Even so, those against WO innovation today grant that women are often "preeminent" over men in people skills, leadership skills, intelligence, spirituality, etc., but still are not part of God's design for the priesthood. Perhaps I missed your argument why we should we start violating Tradition and Scripture at this point in history?

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