Friday, July 3, 2015

Answers to Recent Questions

Alice C. Linsley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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