God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:3-5 (b)

See: God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:3-5 (a)

Genesis 5:3 When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 The days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years; and he had other sons and daughters. 5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.

“all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years  …’      The incredible ages attributed to the first humans may be the effort of the final editor’s of the Bible who wrote much later in history to show how sin will shorten the life spans of people through the centuries.  Proverbs 10:27 says, “The fear of the LORD prolongs life.”  Adam though disobedient to the Lord still fears God when he heard God walking in the garden (Genesis 3:11).   The fear of God is a holy thing not a hellish thing.   The biblical text may be suggesting that as time went on people decreasingly feared the Lord, and thus the life span of all humans even of God’s chosen ones becomes shortened through history.    Many scholars note however that the life spans in the bible’s chronology pale in length to what one can find in other Mideast and Asian religions where sometimes rulers are said to have lived thousands of years.   In 2005 MIT’s TECHNOLOGY REVIEW offered a prize of $20,000 to any molecular biologist who could disprove the idea that humans are capable of living to be 1000 years old.  This contest had nothing to do with the Bible, but was a challenge issued because of the claims of certain scientists that aging is a disease that can be cured.  The scientists who judged the contest concluded that not one biogerontologist could refute the claim nor offer irrefutable scientific evidence to support their own claims that thousand year life spans were impossible.  Thus by the standards of modern science, there is nothing scientific that says it is impossible to live the number of years suggested in Genesis.  It perhaps is ironic that secular scientists who might reject the ages of the ancient biblical characters as myths, now in seeking “eternal youth” say that such life spans are totally possible.  Of course that doesn’t answer the question of whether living such incredibly long lives would be either good or fruitful.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson quipped, “What would be the use of immortality to a person who cannot use well a half an hour?”   And in Genesis even though these early humans live for centuries, the totality of their lives is summed up in a sentence.  They live nine hundred years and their biography can be written in 4 lines.  Longevity of life is obviously not everything to the God whose revelation of truth is contained in these Scriptures.

Because numerology was popular at different times in biblical history, it is also possible the numbers had significance to the composers of the stories which are lost on us.    Much speculation exists about the secret meaning of the ages of the men named in Genesis.

Adam’s death is recorded.   But very unceremoniously and quite unremarkably Adam (the first human, the parentless man created directly by God, and former resident of paradise) now returns to the dust from which he was made (Genesis 3:19).  Was there even a funeral of some sort?    Eve’s death is not even recorded, she simply disappears into history becoming dust unnoticed by anyone and unrecorded by those inspired by God to write down His revelation in the Scriptures.

“Adam lived 930 years.”   Though God had warned Adam if he disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit he would surely die in the day he ate it (Genesis 2:17), Adam lives on for 930 years according to scripture.   Adam surely didn’t die in the day he ate the fruit!  The text itself suggests it is not meant to be read literally.  Adam’s death fulfills the warning of God, but God allowed him to live for the continuation of the human race.  

Adam died.  Adam’s death is actually the first “natural” death recorded in Genesis.  Abel was the first human to die but he was violently murdered by his brother Cain.  Lamech also boasted of murdering a unknown man.  From then until the death of Adam (some 800 years according to the biblical text), no other human death was recorded.   No women’s death is recorded at all – the mothers and wives of these men are given no names and no obituaries. 

If one reads the genealogy carefully one realizes Adam is alive when Lamech is born – all nine generations of humans living together on earth.   Adam’s death still must have come as a shock – for now it is clear that even without violence, humans will die.  The first man to be born after Adam dies is Noah.

Adam had “other sons and daughters.”   This is the first mention of Adam’s daughters.  Biblical literalists assume Adam’s sons got their wives from his daughters and that such sibling incest was needed for the humans to fulfill the command to be fruitful and multiply.   Many Christian writers assume the story is precisely a narrative talking about humanity in general but not in scientific and historic accuracy.   Christian scholars also see the Adam story as symbolic and prototypical with all human beings coming from God but not all are necessarily genetic descendents of Adam and Eve. 

Next:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:6-20(a)

Christ the Wisdom, Word and Power of God (1)

As I am driving in my car this Great Lent I have been listening to Luke Timothy Johnson’s JESUS AND THE GOSPELS (The Teaching Company).  In  Lecture 15 Professor Johnson makes several comments which seemed particularly significant to me in understanding Matthew’s Gospel as well as in understanding who Jesus Christ is.  In this 2 part series I offer my own reflections on the Lecture by Professor Johnson, and I do recommend to others to get and listen to his lectures.

“The Pharisees centered themselves not in the temple (as the Sadducees did) or in the kingship (as the Zealots did) or in the purity of the land (as the Essenes did) but  in the perfect observance of Torah. … They considered all Israelites to be ‘priests’ and , therefore, obligated to obey all the commands given to priests.”

Christ Himself obviously belongs to this same Pharisaical tradition for in the Beatitudes for example, He is offering His teachings on observing Torah.   Additionally in Matthew’s Beatitudes Jesus like Moses goes up on the mount to offer to the people the wisdom of God.  Moses receives this wisdom in the form of tablets of stone with God’s word carved on them.  Jesus speaks God’s words – they come from Christ, He isn’t simply receiving them and passing them on, He speaks as one with authority, as God Himself.

In general, the New Testament’s claim is that not only is Jesus the interpreter of the Torah, but He is more important than the Torah.  This is something the Jews could not accept about His claims and led to the Pharisees strongly opposing Jesus.  Jesus calls His disciples to observe His Gospel commandments just as the Pharisees demanded keeping Torah.

The Pharisaical notion that all Israelites are obliged to keep the commandments, not just the ritual priests working in the temple, is continued in Christianity with the notion of the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5, 2:9; Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6).   The focus is not on keeping rubrics and rituals that only the sacrificial priests must do, but on what all believers must do.    

“Torah expresses the mind of God and is the blueprint for creation; when revealed on Mt. Sinai, it restores the ‘image of God’ to humanity.”

“’For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ’  (1 Corinthians 2:16).   See also John’s Prologue:  John 1:1-17.  It is Christ the incarnate Word who expresses God’s mind and who is master over all creation (Colossians 1:15-16; Hebrews 1:1-3,10).   It is Christ who restores the image of God to humanity (Romans 8:20; 1 Corinthians 11:7; 2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:4).

“Torah is, therefore, both eternal and present to humans.  It is indeed the mediator of God’s presence (shekinah).”

Christ is eternal and makes God present to humans, and is indeed the one mediator between God and humanity as St. Paul notes: “For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human”  (1 Timothy 2:5), and as described in  The Letter to the Hebrews, “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.”

Basically the Pharisees turned away from keeping Torah especially in all its detailed temple demands and turned to studying Torah and discovering its deeper meaning.  Studying Torah was even better than carrying out temple sacrifice.

“Torah is wisdom, and taking its yoke (as in observing Sabbath) is both freedom and rest.”

For the Christians Christ has fulfilled and thus replaced Torah: “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God”  (1 Corinthians 1:24).   Jesus fulfills the prophecies found in Torah, and in fulfilling them Christ is able to set them aside, for their purpose has been fulfilled.   The New Testament claims it is Christ, not Torah, which gives us rest, for Christ has fulfilled the demands of the Law, making it possible for us to enter into God’s rest:  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).  And as Hebrews 3:7-4:16, entering God’s rest is totally dependent on our remaining faithful to God.

Next:  Christ the Wisdom, Word and Power of God (2)