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

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

Genesis 5:6 When Seth had lived a hundred and five years, he became the father of Enosh. 7 Seth lived after the birth of Enosh eight hundred and seven years, and had other sons and daughters. 8 Thus all the days of Seth were nine

Old Testament Patriarchs

 hundred and twelve years; and he died. 9 When Enosh had lived ninety years, he became the father of Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after the birth of Kenan eight hundred and fifteen years, and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years; and he died. 12 When Kenan had lived seventy years, he became the father of Ma-hal’alel. 13 Kenan lived after the birth of Ma-hal’alel eight hundred and forty years, and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were nine hundred and ten years; and he died. 15 When Ma-hal’alel had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Jared. 16 Ma-hal’alel lived after the birth of Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Ma-hal’alel were eight hundred and ninety-five years; and he died. 18 When Jared had lived a hundred and sixty-two years he became the father of Enoch. 19 Jared lived after the birth of Enoch eight hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years; and he died.

There are no wives’ names mentioned in the genealogy.  No accounting is given of where the wives came from or who their parents were.  The genealogy is purely patriarchal: a father-son schema.  Each man’s life is marked by only three events:  1) the man’s birth, 2) what age he was at the birth of his son of this genealogy, and 3) how old he was when he died.  The only mention of females at all is almost parenthetically – they are among the “other” sons and daughters each man had.   These “other” sons and daughters are not named, are not part of the direct lineage being followed, and though their existence is acknowledged, they are not significant for the story.  That they must have been marrying and producing families and descendents is not within the interest of the text. 

St. John Chrysostom reminds his audience that every word of the scriptures are inspired, and that they must not just be read in dull, leaden  literal fashion, but rather one must allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the depth contained in the verses.  He did feel the genealogies were inspired and important, but in his own commentaries he often glosses over them and does not do the verse by verse parsing which is his usual way to approach the biblical text.   “I beg you all not to pass heedlessly by the contents of Holy Scripture.  I mean, there is nothing in the writings at this point which does not contain a great wealth of thought; after all, since the blessed authors composed under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, on that account they hold concealed within them great treasure because written by the Spirit. … You see, there is not even a syllable or even one letter contained in Scripture which does not have a great treasure concealed in its depths. … Sacred Scripture does not call in to play human wisdom for the understanding of its writings, but the revelation of the Spirit, so that we may learn the true meaning of its contents and draw from it a great benefit.”  For St. John not only are the writers of Scripture inspired by God, but also inspiration comes upon those who listen to or read them.  It isn’t literalism that is necessary to read them but more importantly we need inspiration to understand them.  Like many Patristic writers, Chrysostom saw the understanding of scriptures to be similar to mining gold – we cannot be satisfied with what we find on the surface, we must dig (work hard) to get deeper into them so that we can mine the depth of their riches.  

One might ask why should we read these ancient texts with their lists of names, describing a world that no longer exists and lifestyles to which we cannot relate?   St. Peter of Damaskos (12th Century AD) offers these thoughts about reading less interesting scriptural passages:   “I  went through all these slowly and diligently, trying to discover the root of man’s destruction and salvation, and which of his actions or practices does or does not bring him to salvation.  I wanted to find what it is that everyone seeks after, and how people served God in the past, and still serve Him today, in wealth or poverty, living among many sinners or in solitude, married or celibate: how, quite simply in every circumstance and activity we find life or death, salvation or destruction … Cain and Abel… between them jealousy triumphed, and deceit, and these gave rise to murder, cursing and terror.  I was astonished, too, by their descendants, whose sins were so many that they provoked the flood…”   For St. Peter, scripture offers us a chance to learn about the sins and mistakes of others, so that we don’t repeat them, and to realize there have been righteous people in every generation even when most people in the world practiced evil. 

On the Sunday before Christmas the Orthodox Church commemorates the Holy Ancestors of Christ and has the holy men of the genealogy celebrating the birth of Christ:  “Adorned with the glory of divine communion Adam exults today; with him, Abel leaps in gladness and Enoch rejoices; Seth dances for joy and Noah with him.” (Vespers hymn)

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

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

This is the conclusion of the blog Next:  Christ the Wisdom, Word and Power of God (1) which began my comments on Lecture 15 of  Luke Timothy Johnson’s JESUS AND THE GOSPELS (The Teaching Company).  Professor Johnson makes several comments which seemed particularly significant to me in understanding Matthew’s Gospel.

 “Most impressively, Matthew artfully suggests that Jesus even personifies Torah, making it possible to declare that Jesus is ‘Torah made human.’”

Matthew makes Jesus like Torah:  to be wisdom personified, to be eternal, and to be with the faithful forever.   This certainly is the sense in which Jesus can be said to be the Wisdom and Word of God incarnate. 

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. … And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (John 1:14-18).

For the Christians, as they spread the Gospel through the world of the Roman empire and among their fellow Jews, they were intentionally competing with the ideas of wisdom both from Greek philosophy and from the Jewish sense taken from Torah of the divine Wisdom.  To both, they boldly claimed that Jesus, the Jewish carpenter’s son, was not only also the Son of God, but was Wisdom incarnate.  Wisdom and philosophy were valued by both Jews and Greeks, but their understanding of each was different.  For Greeks, wisdom was the supreme reason/rationality of the universe which remained hidden and had to be discovered by philosophers to help man to become wise and to pursue pure mind, liberated from the body.  For the Jews, Wisdom, God’s presence on earth,  meant God’s own powerful action in the world, for Wisdom was revealed by God, but also was a revelation that moved history and individuals to godliness.

Christ Teaching

As St. Neilos the Ascetic (d. 430AD) understood it, Christ and Christians had laid hold of both Wisdom traditions and found them pointing to Christ as Lord.   He wrote:  “only the disciples of Christ have pursued true wisdom, because they alone have Wisdom as their teacher.”   The Great Church in Constantinople was named Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) and is dedicated to Christ, who the Church proclaimed as the Wisdom of God.   St. Paul the Apostle’s writing in 1 Corinthians 1:18-30 can best be understood as both comparing and contrasting Jesus Christ to the wisdom of Hellenic philosophy as well as the Wisdom of the Torah.  Christ as Wisdom is not a noetic abstraction to be sought by the bodiless and pure minds of Greek philosophers, but the incarnated AND crucified Lord.   Christ is not a conquering power over the Gentiles as the Jews imagined, but is the power of God to destroy death the last enemy through the death of God’s Son obediently carrying out the Father’s will, as Israel was supposed to but failed to do.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.”  Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth;  but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong,  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Cor 1:18-30)