Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Image of God Means Imaging God

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." (Genesis 1:26)

What follows is the abstract for IMAGING GOD: A theological Answer to the Anthropological Question? by Alistair McFadyen (University of Leeds). The full text may be read here.
Traditionally the central trope in Christian theological anthropology, ‘the image of God’ tends to function more as a noun than a verb. Whilst that has grounded significant interplay between specific Christian formulations and the concepts of non-theological disciplines and cultural constructs, it facilitates the withdrawal of the image and of theological anthropology more broadly from the context of active relation with God. Rather than a static rendering of the image a more interactionist, dynamic and relational view of ‘imag ing God’ is commended as a key anthropological term. Engaging with Psalm 8 suggests that, biblically, asking the anthropological question (what is humanity?) is tied to the answer to the theological question: who is God? This locates theological anthropology securely within the interactive context of being related to by God and suggests that theological anthropology might be a matter of performance, rather than definition: actively imaging God.

McFadyen's article makes sense of the theological context of this Biblical figure of speech - "the image of God" and he rightly asserts that the theological and the anthropological meanings are inextricably entwined. He uses the term "anthropological" in a theological sense, i.e., as related the biblical view of human nature, and this helps his argument. On the other hand, he fails to explore the trope as an anthropologist would and that weakens his case. 

The weakness comes from failure to see that the structure of Psalm 8:4 is parallel to the structure of Genesis 4-5. Adam and Enoch are paralleled, as are their descendants whose lines intermarried. In this diagram of Cain's line (Genesis 4) and Seth's line (Genesis 5) are shown parallel. They represent two ruling houses that intermarried. Naamah, the daughter of Lamech the Elder, married her patrilineal cousin Methuselah. She named her first-born son Lamech, after her father. This is one of many examples of the cousin bride's naming prerogative found in the Bible.

Analysis of the diagram enables us to see that Enoch and Adam are rulers whose descendants practiced endogamy, that is, their royal lines intermarried. Endogamy is a universal trait of castes. Their descendants represent the oldest known ruler-priest lines, and it is from them that the Son of God came in the person of Jesus Messiah.

On a fundamental level "imaging" God is what the deified ruler is to do. To miss this is to lose sight of the connection between dominion and the divine image. There is a Messianic dimension as the One who has ultimate dominion is the Son of God. Jesus Messiah is the icon of God the Father and this icon is not a static picture, but a living image.

McFadyen writes:
"Because God’s relating – and therefore God – are already oriented towards the human; indeed, oriented and seeking the human in its fullest realization. Psalm 8 has a shorthand code whereby it rolls up the whole history and future directedness of God’s relating in its orientation towards human well-being, flourishing and consummation: God’s mindfulness (v.4). And it is in the context of wondering acknowledgment of the status that affords human beings that it articulates the anthropological question in a specifically and definite theological register."

Adam was made in the image of God and this expresses a God-Man relationship, but beyond that we must consider the claim of Abraham's ancestors that they are the royal descendants of Adam. In other words, they claim a historical link to the divine image through their Horite Hebrew ancestors and this constitutes their work as ruler-priests who are to image God.

Psalm 8:4 is reveals an important theological and anthropological understanding of the God-Man relationship. Adam parallels Enoch/Nok, the father-in-law of Cain and Seth . In this sense, Genesis poses two founding fathers: Adam and Enoch/Nok/Anochie. They are founders of the ruler-priest lines described in the Genesis 4, 5, 11, 25 and 36. These are not genealogies. They are King Lists.

Note that Enoch and Adam are paralleled in Psalm 8:4:

What is man (Enoch/ha-noch) that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man (ben adam) that you care for him?

Psalm 8:4 connects the Adam and Enoch and highlights their historicity and meta-historical significance. The historical ruler Enoch parallels the "son of man", Jesus' favorite description of Himself. There is a sacred mystery here concerning Christ that places Him at the nexus of the meta-historical and the historical. Both Adam and Enoch point to the fully human Son of God, the very "image of God" shown to us perfectly and fully in the person of Jesus Messiah. 

The Psalmist parallels two deified rulers: Adam and Enoch. He regards both as "fathers" of the Hebrew people whose roots are in Eden. Perhaps this is why Jesus' ruler-priest identity was recognized in Tyre in Mark’s Gospel, not on a mountain, as in Matthew's account of the Transfiguration. For Mark, the Messiah’s appearing means the beginning of the restoration of Paradise. Mark likely had in mind this passage from Ezekiel 28: 
"Son of Man, raise a lament over the king of Tyre and say to him: Thus says the Lord God: You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and flawless beauty. You were in Eden, in the Garden of God; every precious stone was your adornment... and gold beautifully wrought for you, mined for you, prepared the day you were created."

Likewise Amos 1:5 speaks of “him who holds the scepter from the house of Eden."

Genesis connects "image of God" with dominion over all the earth. Consider this from Genesis 1:26:
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
In the beginning, Adam did not have to work for his dominion. God bestowed to him a territory to rule over. The suggestion that Man is to enjoy status as a deified or righteous ruler who "images" the Ruler of the universe is quite evident. This is a bestowed ontology.

The Fall did not remove the image and likeness of God, nor did it remove the responsibility to "image" God. Adam's descendants spread abroad and they ruled over territories from Africa to India and beyond. As they dispersed, they took their expectation that a Son who would be born of their ruler-priest lines. He is called the "Seed" of God in Genesis 3:15. Of this Seed, Paul writes in Galatians 3:
"Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy Seed, which is Christ… And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."

Jesus referred to Himself as the promised "Seed" when He foretold his death in Jerusalem. He told his disciples "Unless a seed fall into the ground and die, it cannot give life." (John 12:24)

The phrase "image and likeness" suggests a royal seal which holds the image or likeness of the king. There is a sense of divine appointment. Adam, Enoch, Cain, Seth and all appointed rulers after him are to "image" on earth the righteous rule of God. Yet all failed, save Jesus Christ beneath whose feet God will subject all things. 

McFayden writes, "Engaging with Psalm 8 suggests that, biblically, asking the anthropological question (what is humanity?) is tied to the answer to the theological question: who is God?

Psalm 8:4 does indeed speak of who God is. However, it does so using parallelism of historical persons and it places the Son of God as the culminating figure of the biblical narrative and the Messianic Faith.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Free Online Course on Genesis

Hillsdale College now offers a free online course on the book of Genesis with Professor Justin Jackson. This is a literary approach to the book and should be helpful in discerning the nuances of the text. Register here:

To understand the nature of a literary approach, read Robert Alter's The Art of Biblical Narrative.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Church is Drawn Near

Alice C. Linsley

How are we to understand the relationship between the faithful of the Old Covenant and the faithful of the New Covenant? These are treated as distinct entities in the Bible and yet they are closely related.

The "people of God" appears to involve two entities that are made one in the Covenant of the Blood of Jesus Messiah. How might this be evident in the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the ruler-priest caste of Jesus?

It is likely that the marriage of the Horite Hebrew ruler to two wives stands as the background to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Therefore, the pattern is of eschatological significance. This view opposes the position that faithful Hebrews and Israel are subsumed into the church. To understand this we have to dig deep into the marriage and ascendancy pattern of Jesus' ruler-priest caste.

The faithful under the Old Covenant are the saints like Abraham, Moses, Hannah, Samuel, David. These are the closer kin to Messiah since they are his people. They are to Jesus Messiah what Sarah was to Abraham, and Jochebed to Moses. Sarah and Jochebed were half-sisters who shared a common father with their spouses.

The pattern of two wives pertains to rulers only. Rulers have always had a different pattern because of the necessity of a royal heir. Some rulers with two wives include Lamech, Terah, Abraham, Jacob, Amram, Moses and Elkanah.

Analysis of the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the Hebrew rulers indicates that the second wife was taken just prior to and as a prerequisite to the beginning of the son's rule in his father's kingdom. This is why Abraham was anxious that his servant should acquire a cousin wife for Isaac before his death. Rebekah was Isaac's cousin wife.

The second bride is a patrilineal cousin whereas the first wife is a half-sister. The cousin bride has full wife status, but still represents a more distant relationship from the spouse. The Apostle Paul expresses it this way:
"remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has torn down the dividing wall of hostility…" (Ephesians 2:12-14)
The faithful of Israel have a closer kinship to Jesus Messiah than the church as the second (cousin) wife. However, without consummation of the marriage to the church, the Messiah cannot begin his eternal reign. Abraham's marriages to the Hebrew women Sarah and Keturah serves as an illustration.

As a ruler over a territory, Abraham's two wives were needed to maintain his rule over Edom. Sarah's settlement was in Hebron on the northern boundary of Abraham's territory. The southern boundary was maintained by the people living in Beersheba, Keturah's home.

The two wives are not separate kingdoms. They are made one kingdom be virtue of their marriage to the one ruler.

Likewise, Messiah unites the two peoples into one kingdom, as was expected by the Horite Hebrew. This is represented by the double crown of Yeshua. "Then take silver and gold, and make crowns [ataroth], and set them on the head of Joshua [Yeshua/Jesus] the son of Josedech, the high priest..." (Zechariah 6:11) The ataroth was called the "atef" crown among the Nilotic Hebrew. The atef crown was two crowns in one and it was worn by deified rulers. The Arabic word atef (or atif) means “kind.” The ruler who wore the atef crown was to embody kindness and he was to unite the peoples.

Among the Horite Hebrew, the son of God was called "Horus of the Two Crowns." The king list on the Palermo stone begins with the names of Lower Nile pharaohs and shows them wearing the Red Crown of the Lower Nile. The White Crown [nefer] represented the peoples of the Upper Nile. The two were put together to symbolize a united kingdom. The Cairo fragment shows these rulers wearing the double crown, which the Greeks called the "Pschent." The two peoples or two households of faith are symbolized by the two crowns made into one.

The Bible describes the relationship of Jesus Christ to the faithful of his Hebrew people and the Church in different ways. One way is to describe Abraham the Hebrew as the spiritual father of all. Those of the New Covenant have been grafted into Abraham who was justified by faith. Speaking to Gentile followers of Messiah, Paul wrote:
"But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith." (Romans 11:17-20)

Jesus comes from the Hebrew root stock of Jesse and all who are baptized into Jesus have a common root in the Messianic Faith. Both households of faith are justified by faith through the Blood of Messiah, the Son of God. Both are heirs of the kingdom. Both are to enjoy immortality through His resurrection.

Israel was claimed by God as his first bride: "For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name..." (Isaiah 54:5) Though Israel proved to be like the harlot of Hosea, not all of Israel was found faithless. The faithful remnant is the first bride. Likewise, not all who claim to be Christian will be at the wedding feast of the Divine Bridegroom.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:9)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Church's Consensus on Women and the Priesthood

The Church is not a democracy in which sacred tradition, doctrine, and discipline can be changed by consensus. The Church already has a consensus...the Apostolic Consensus. When it comes to the question of women priests, the consensus is clear.

Consider what these Church Fathers have to say about women and the priesthood.

St. Irenaeus, "Against Heresies" (1.31.2) wrote, "After this he gave women mixed chalices and told them to give thanks in his presence. Then he took another chalice much larger than that on which the deceived woman gave thanks, and, pouring from the smaller... to the much later. . the larger chalice was filled from the smaller chalice and overflowed."

Tertullian, in "The Prescription of Heretics" (41), says: "How wanton are the women of these heretics! they dare to teach, . to dispute, to carry out exorcisms, to undertake cures, it may be even to baptize."

In his work "On Veiling Virgins" (9.1), Tertullian wrote: "It is not permissible for a woman to speak in church, nor may she teach, baptize, offer, or claim for herself any function proper to a man, and least of all the office of priest."

Firmilian, in Epistle 75.1-5 to Cyprian, tells of a woman who went into an ecstasy (shamanism?) and came out a prophetess. "That woman who first through marvels or deceptions of the demons did many things to deceive the faithful, among other things... she dared to do this, namely that by an impressive invocation she feigned she was sanctifying bread, and offering a sacrifice to the Lord."

Origen, in his commentary on 1 Cor 14:34 tells of the four daughters of Philip; who prophesied, yet they did not speak in the Churches. "We do not find that in the Acts of the Apostles... . For it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church."

St. Epiphanius, in "Against Heresies" (79.304) wrote:
"If women were ordained to be priests for God or to do anything canonical in the church, it should rather have been given to Mary... . She was not even entrusted with baptizing... Although there is an order of deaconesses in the church, yet they are not appointed to function as priests, or for any administration of this kind, but so that provision may be made for the propriety of the female sex [at nude baptisms]. Whence comes the recent myth? Whence comes the pride of women or rather, the woman's insanity?"
In 49. 2-3 St. Epiphanius tells of the Cataphrygians, a heretical sect related to the Montanists. He wrote:
The Cataphrygians pretended that a woman named Quintillia or Priscilla had seen Christ visiting her in a dream at Pepuza, and sharing her bed. He took the appearance of a woman and was dressed in white."Among them women are bishops and priests and they say nothing makes a difference' For in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female... '' [Gal. 3:28]
St. John Chrysostom, in his treatise "On the Priesthood" (2.2) points out that Jesus said, "Feed my sheep" only to Peter. "Many of the subjects could easily do the things I have mentioned, not only men, but also women. But when there is question of the headship of the church... let the entire female sex retire."

In the same treatise (3.9) St. John Chrysostom wrote: "Divine law has excluded women from the sanctuary, but they try to thrust themselves into it."

St. Augustine, "On Heresies" (27) speaks of the Pepuzians mentioned by St. Epiphanius. "They give such principality to women that they even honor them with priesthood."

Related reading: Why Women Were Never Priests; The ACNA and the Priesthood of the Church; Men at Altar, Woman at the Empty Tomb; The Priesthood in Anthropological Perspective; God as Male Priest; C. S. Lewis on Women Priests

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Substance of Abraham's Faith

Abraham's territory between Hebron and Beersheba and Engedi and Gerar

Alice C. Linsley

Abraham is the central figure of the book of Genesis.  He is presented as a man of faith who acted on his faith and was justified by faith.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (James 2:21-24)

But what was the substance of Abraham's faith?  That important question can be answered by investigation of Abraham's cultural context using Genesis and extra-biblical sources of information such as linguistics, kinship analysis, archaeology, anthropology and DNA studies. When we bring together the evidence of these disciplines we draw the following conclusions:

Abraham's people originated in Eden

Abraham's people originated in the Upper Nile region which includes western Sudan, southern Ethiopia and northern Somalia. This is the region of ancient Eden (eden is related to the Nilo-Saharan word egan, meaning garden). It was here that the first Bible promise was made to Abraham's ancestors. The Edenic Promise of Genesis 3:15 foretells how the Woman would bring forth a son who would crush the serpent's head and restore paradise.

This Horite Hebrew expectation was expressed about 1000 years before Psalm 91 in the Pyramid Texts. "Horus has shattered (tbb, crushed) the mouth of the serpent with the sole of his foot (tbw)" (Utterance 388)

As the sun was the symbol of the Creator and his Son, divine appointment was expressed by overshadowing. When the Virgin Mary asked how she was to become the mother of the Messiah, The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)

The region of Eden is where we find the oldest agricultural practices, metal-working, circumcision of priests, and the oldest Hebrew (Habiru) temples and shrines.

The Genesis king lists indicate that Abraham's ancestors migrated from ancient Kush to Mesopotamia. Nimrod, the son of Kush (Gen. 10:8), built a vast kingdom in the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley. This Kushite migration has been confirmed by DNA studies. Nimrod's brother was Ramaah who settled to the southeast of Dedan in northern Arabia.

Abraham's people were Horite Hebrew

The term "Horite" pertains to Horus, who the Horite Hebrew regarded as the "son" of God. This God Father-God Son relationship is central to the Messianic Faith of Abraham and his Horite Hebrew caste of ruler-priests. At Hierakonpolis (Nekhen) on the Nile the Horite Hebrew established the oldest known Horus shrine (c. 3800 B.C.). The Horite priesthood of Abraham's ancestors was dedicated to a Divine Triad of the Creator God and his Uniquely Begotten Son by a Chosen Woman and the Generative Word. That sounds very much like the Holy Trinity!

Abraham's people believed in a supreme creator God with lesser assisting semi-divine powers in a hierarchical ranking, like a pyramid. This is called henotheism. Each clan was headed by a hereditary ritual leader and had guardians from among the lesser powers (along the idea of guardian angels). In ancient Egypt these powers were represented by animals totems. Only one power was represented as a man - Horus - God's uniquely begotten son. The biblical priesthood and the Messianic Faith originate among the devotees of Horus. The Horite Hebrew priesthood was restricted to males and was concerned with ritual purity, especially the avoidance of blood guilt.

Abraham's people hoped for a Righteous Ruler

The Horite Hebrew anticipated a Righteous Ruler to be born of their caste. His identity would be confirmed by his third day resurrection. The Horite Hebrew expectation that the Righteous Son would not remain in the grave is expressed in Psalm 16:10: "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."

The New Testament speaks about Jesus as the ruler-priest. He is the firstborn from the grave and by his resurrection He delivers to the Father a "peculiar people." He leads us in the ascent to the Father where we receive heavenly recognition because we belong to Him.

Heavenly recognition for the Horites was never an individual prospect. Heavenly recognition came to the people through the righteousness of their ruler-priest. Horite Hebrew rulers took this seriously, some more than others. The best were heavenly minded and the worst were so earthy minded that they shed much blood enlarging their territories. All failed to be the Ruler-Priest who rose from the dead. Therefore, none have the power to deliver captives from the grave and to lead them to the throne of heaven (Ps. 68:18; Ps. 7:7; Eph. 4:8). That one true ruler-priest is Jesus, the Son of God.

Abraham's people trace their lineage from two founders

Genesis presents two founding ancestors for Abraham's people. One is Adam, the archetypal first Man and the other is the historical patriarch Enoch. Adam and Eve are etymological, not proper names.  "Adam" is traceable to "dam" in the Chadic and Kushitic languages, which means red and refers to the earth which the ancient Kushites believed was the source of blood. So we are told that the first man was made from the red earth. The first historical persons in Genesis are Kain, Seth and their wives, the daughters of a chief named Enoch. The name Enoch is probably the name Nok which pertains to a region west of Lake Chad as well as to an historical individual.

Genesis poses Adam as the first man and Enoch as the first ancestor of the historical persons listed in Genesis 4, 5 and 11.  The biblical writers understood this because the names Adam and Enoch are parallel in Psalm 8, verse 4:

What is man (Enoch) that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man (ben adam) that you care for him?

Here we see that the historical first ancestor Enoch is paralled with the archetypal first man Adam. This means that the author of the Psalm understood the difference between the two figures, and we should as well, if we want to understand Genesis.

The Horite ruler-priests are Jesus Christ's ancestors

Analysis of the king lists of Genesis 4, 5, 10, 11, 25 and 36 reveals a distinctive marriage and ascendancy pattern that is unique to the Horite Hebrew ruler-priest caste. The pattern involves two wives, as with Lamech (Genesis 4); Abraham, Jacob and Elkanah.

The wife of the ruler-priest's youth was his half-sister. Before ascending to rule over his clan, tehre is a second marriage to a patrilineal cousin. The first-born son of the first wife is the proper heir of his father. The first-born son of the cousin wife served as a vizier in the territory of his maternal grandfather, after whom he was named. This is called the "cousin-wife's naming prerogative." This hints at a pattern that will be fulfilled when Jesus Messiah takes His second wife, the Church.

The origins of the faith of Messiah (Christ), the Son of God, came to Abraham, not as special revelation, but as a tradition received from his forefathers. The distinctive traits of this tradition align remarkable well with the key features of catholic (universal) faith and practice, suggesting that Christianity is one one true Messianic Faith:

  • All-male ruler-priests who were mediators between God and the defiled
  • A binary (versus dualistic) worldview
  • Blood sacrifice at altars whereby sin was propitiated
  • Expectation of the appearing of the Son of God in the flesh
  • God's will on earth as in heaven - interpreted by morehs (prophets)
  • Belief in an eternal and undivided Kingdom delivered by the Father to the Son.

Because of God's promise in Eden, Abraham and his ancestors lived in expectation of the Son of God and taught their children to do so. Their priestly lines intermarried exclusively in expectation that the Seed of the Woman would come of their priestly lines. The Edenic Promise was a central belief of the Horite Hebrew tradition. They believed that the son would be born of the Woman of Genesis 3:15.  She would conceive by being "overshadowed" just as was announced to Mary by the angel (Luke 1:35).

The Virgin Birth is one of many signs that the One born to Mary is the Son of God. This is not about the birth of the Sun at the winter solstice. This is not a reworking of the Egyptian tale of Horus. The Horus archetype provides the pattern whereby Abraham's descendants would recognize Messiah. It points us to the Virgin who gave birth to the Son of God under humble circumstances. In the Horus myth, Hathor gives birth in a cave. In Orthodoxy, icons of the Nativity show the Theotokos with the newly born Christ in a cave.

Christianity is an organic religion that emerges out of a belief that God made a promise in Eden and that He has been busy fulfilling that promise in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The core of Christianity can be traced to the beliefs of Abraham and his ancestors. It predates all the great world religions. Christianity isn't original, but what it lacks in originality it makes up for in great antiquity, and herein rests its authority.

Related reading: The Ra-Horus-Hathor NarrativeArchaic Rulers, Ascendancy and the Foreshadowing of ChristTwo Named Esau; Jesus: From Lamb to Ram; Ram Symbolism in the Ancient World; Did Abraham Believe Isaac Could be the Messiah?; The Calling of Abraham

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Finding Cain's Homeland

Was this skull found in Cain's original homeland?

Alice C. Linsley

In 2000 a major archaeological discovery made by a team led by paleontologist Paul Sereno opened a window onto the Green Sahara of 10,000 to 5,000 years ago. Sereno and his team discovered a large cemetery on the edge of a paleolake in Niger. Read more about the discovery here.

This raises questions about Adam as the first human. As Cain's father, Adam would have lived later the Gobero population. Cain was building a city and his descendants within ten generations were working metal. This indicates the Neolithic period. Perhaps we should consider the possibility that Adam was not the first human, but the first of the clans of humans that come to be known as Hebrew priests.

When the Apostle Paul speaks of Adam as a type of Christ, he is using an analogy: Death came by Adam, the disobedient first priest, and life comes by Jesus Christ the obedient High Priest.

The word "adam" is "adamah" in Hebrew and it means red human, likely a reference to the red earth from which Adam was formed. If this is correct, Adam is the first of the red people, that is, Abraham's Hebrew ancestors. He is the founder of the priest caste that was known for s distinctive red tone. Esau and David were among them. The word Edom also refers to red. Genesis 36:31 speaks to the antiquity of the Edomite rulers: "These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the children of Israel.”

Abraham's territory ws in Edom, between Hebron in the north (where Sarah resided) and Beersheba to the south (where Keturah resided). The Greeks called Edom "Idumea" which means "land of red people. 

Edom was in the heart of biblical Eden. Havilah is in the land of Kush, at the source of the Nile in the Ethiopian highlands. The Nile is fed by two sources: the White and Blue Nile. Likely these are the Gihon and Pishon mentioned in Genesis. The Hebrew word Giħôn (גיחון) means spring, as in a water source that bursts forth, or gushes. It appears that the four streams of Eden are the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the rivers known today as the Blue and White Nile.

In the garden of Eden narratives we find clues as to the cultural contexts of the narrators. The term Eden derives from the Akkadian term edinu, which refers to a fertile plain. The Hebrew word gan is related to the Kushite term egàn, which refers to a virgin forest. The Akkadian edinu describes the fertile plain of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. The Kushite word egàn describes the forests of the Nile Valley before the desertification of the Sahara. The early chapters of Genesis are layered like an onion.

Which of these layers is the older context? Here is a clue: when banished from his homeland, Cain moved to the "east of Eden," which is to say that he moved east of the virgin forests of the wet Sahara. If the Biblical writer intends Eden to be the land of Israel, east would place Cain in Mesopotamia, the territory of the Kushite kingdom builder, Nimrod. Abraham was a descendant of Nimrod, the son of Kush (Genesis 10). If the Biblical writer assumed that Eden was in Mesopotamia, east of that would place Cain in Pakistan. That is not likely.

I believe that Cain was a Proto-Saharan ruler whose territory was west of the Nile, probably in the region where Paul Sereno found the Gobero graveyard. The Gobero site is the earliest known cemetery in the Sahara and the skeletons found there indicate that some of the people were over six feet tall. Here is a photo of one of the Gobero skeletons (G3B8). It measures six feet six inches. 

Photo credit: Mike Hettwer

The phrase "east of Eden" in the Hebrew text is quimat-Eden and appears to be a Nilotic reference. Originally, the word was probably qma, which is an ancient Egyptian word that refers to bulrushes. So it is possible that Cain left the Lake Chad region and went east to the land of bulrushes, the Nile Valley.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Curses in Genesis

Bowls like this 5000 year Egyptian incantation bowl
were used by priests to bless or curse.

Alice C. Linsley

The word "curse" appears in biblical passages that involve imprecatory prayers, banishment, belittling, diminishment, and disparagement of a clan such as the Hamites or a general population such as the Canaanites (Genesis 9). Numerous curses are listed in Deuteronomy 28 as a consequence of violating the terms of the covenant. These include being scattered, slavery, poverty, and disease.

Jeremiah cursed the day of his birth (Jeremiah 20:14). Job refused to curse God, though he was urged to do so by his wife (Job 2:9). Balak sent for Balaam to come and curse "this people” (Numbers 22:6). Jesus Messiah cursed the fig tree (Mark 11:14). The word "curse" appears in Genesis 12:3 where Abraham is told: "I will bless them that bless you and I will curse them that curse you."

Blessing and curse are often intertwined so that our perception depends on our perspective. This is true of the Crucifixion of Jesus Messiah. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says that anyone hanged upon a tree or pole is cursed. This is how the Apostle Paul expresses this paradox: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (I Corinthians 1:18)

Wheaton College Professor John H. Walton has noted, "Blessing and curse are common terms in Genesis from the initial blessing in Genesis 1 to the curses of Genesis 3, 4 and 9, and then to the juxtaposition of curse and blessing in Genesis 12:1-3."

In Genesis 27:1-13, Rebekah is willing to be cursed for plotting to deceive her husband. Jacob said to his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”

Jacob is banished to the territory of his maternal uncle from which he returns a rich man. Esau, as Isaac's rightful heir, becomes a ruler of Edom. In the end, Rebekah's sons are both blessed and a blessing to her. It appears to be true that "where sin abounded, grace abounded much more." (Romans 5:20b)

In the ancient world, official curses and blessing were primarily the work of priests. They sometimes used bowls to bless and to curse. To be blessed was to be under divine protection and to be cursed was to be removed from divine protection. The curse was inscribed inside the bowl and the priest pronouncing the curse would pour water from that bowl on the cursed person or on their property. Presumably the worst curse would involve seven bowls or the pouring of water seven times.

Hebrew verbs that are transliterated "curse" include 'âlâh, ’arar, and qlal. These are also found in variant forms in Akkadian, Ugaritic, Assyrian, and Arabic.

According to Strong's #423, 'âlâh (אָלָה) refers to the execution of an oath. As a noun, 'âlâh refers to the oath itself.

According to Strong's #779'ârar (אָרַר) means "to curse" and is found in Genesis 3:14 and Genesis 3:17. In Genesis 3:14, the serpent is cursed. In Genesis 3:17, the ground is cursed. These two curses parallel two blessings. The Seed of the Woman will crush the serpent's head (Genesis 3:15), and the Promised Land which the people would enter by faith is described as flowing with milk and honey.

Qâlal (קָלַל) appears the first time in Genesis 8:8 in reference to the diminishing flood waters. According to Strong's #7043qlal carries the sense of being diminished or belittled. The word appears in Genesis 24:41 in reference to release from the oath sworn to Abraham by his servant.

In Genesis 3, the ground is cursed as a consequence of human disobedience. This appears to refer a reduction in the land's productivity. This is not difficult to understand, given how humans pollute and abuse the earth by deforestation, slash and burn techniques, depletion of the soil, and over grazing. Paul links the redemption of humans to the restoration of Paradise in Romans 8:19-23.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

In Genesis 4:12, Cain is cursed and banished from the land where Abel's blood was shed. There is a tendency to forget that Cain was shown mercy and granted blessing. He went on to be a ruler who built a city which he named for his son Enoch. His descendants intermarried with the clan of Shem (see diagram) and are included in the ancestry of Jesus Messiah. This means that Cain's line was not wiped out in the flood.

A great deal of divine grace was shown to Cain the murderer, just as it was to the murderers Moses and David. Cain murdered his brother and tried to hide his crime from God. He deserved death, yet God showed him mercy by sparing his life. Cain was sent away and marked by God with a protecting sign.

St. John Chrysostom commented on the unfathomable grace expressed in the story of the Lamech the Elder (Genesis 4). He wrote: “By confessing his sins to his wives, Lamech brings to light what Cain tried to hide from God and by comparing what he has done to the crimes committed by Cain he limited the punishment coming to Him.” (St. John Chrysostom’s Homilies on Genesis, Vol. 74, p.39. The Catholic University Press of America, 1999.)

Reflecting on this great mercy shown to his ancestor Cain, Lamech challenges God to show him greater mercy (Genesis 4:24). If grace was shown to Cain (7), then Lamech by confessing his sin, claims a double measure of grace (77). He claims to be avenged by God "seventy and sevenfold." His grandson Lamech the Younger is assigned a triple measure of grace because he is said to have lived 777 years (Genesis 5:31). By tracing the increase from the number 7 assigned to Cain to the number 777 assigned to Lamech the Younger, we see a pattern of blessing. This pattern speaks of God's mercy shown to sinners.

Likewise, though a belittling curse is spoken by Noah against his son Ham, Ham's descendants are counted in the ancestry of Jesus Messiah. As this diagram reveals, the lines of Ham and Shem intermarried.