Historicity of Genesis

Discussion in 'Abrahamic Religions' started by plouton6, Dec 16, 2021.

  1. plouton6

    plouton6 Member

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    I have been thinking about the Book of Genesis and would like to share some thoughts with you. I am going to make statements for the sake of practicality, but they should not be interpreted as expressions of what I think is the truth. As a lapsed Catholic, I am going to hypothesize based on the English version of the Catholic bible as made available by the Holy See.

    ***

    Before writing was invented, the only way to keep history alive was by passing it down orally from generation to generation. The most effective way to make people (especially children) retain information is by disguising it as a story, which requires facts to be mixed with fiction. People shared knowledge by telling myths.

    The Chimú civilization from ancient Peru knew that they descended from people that arrived from the sea. Contemporary scientists know that South America was partly first inhabited by a group of people arriving from the Pacific in primitive boats. This is one example of a myth that can be partially confirmed by science as historical fact.

    The Book of Genesis is largely symbolic and mythological, but that does not preclude it from being historical as well. The same story may convey both historical facts and spiritual symbolism through mythology, and thus can be reconciled with contemporary scientific knowledge – a true work of genius.

    Adam and Eve

    Genesis 1:27 seems to suggest that men and women were created around the same time. Maybe the first human was indeed a male mutant, but he was not the only mutant to be born. Even between twins there is an elder sibling, so the male was just the first born.

    Genesis 2:7 states that “man” was formed out of clay. Clay is the raw material for pottery, so this is a figure of speech. Men and women were formed out of something that already existed.

    The Book talks about the Lord, but not about the man at this point. There was not just one man. Man is used as a reference to the species that had just been created, male and female alike. Genesis 5:2 confirms this.

    Maybe the Book is telling us the story of the first archaic humans (and the raw material is an ape). Maybe it is the story of the first Homo sapiens (and the raw material is Homo erectus). Maybe it is the story of the ancestors of Israelites (or Iraqis), who were genotypically different from their parents and relatives, not encompassing other human populations.

    Genesis 2:18 makes the first reference to the man in the context of creation, and how he could not find a monogamous partner. Maybe he had not had a wife at this point even though there were women, or maybe he had once had a wife who preferred to mate with other men or other apes (Lilith?).

    There was a point in history where there were not a lot of physical differences between men and apes (or between different species of humans), and Lilith (?) may have perceived both Adam and herself as defective (given that they were a minority as far as their looks went) but had no problem with mating with other males.

    Genesis 2:21 through 2:23 tells us that Adam found a monogamous partner in a woman who was made of his flesh. The Book is not literal when referring to creation, so Eve may have been his daughter (besides a mutant just like him).

    We find incest despicable nowadays (as we should), but it was quite common not so long ago, in the Middle Ages, when kings used to marry their own sisters just for the sake of royal blood.

    The Garden of Eden

    Genesis 2:8 through 2:14 tells us that the Garden of Eden was to the East from the place where Adam was born, and that it was the source of four rivers, two of which we know nowadays: Tigris and Euphrates.

    Humans first appeared somewhere on Earth. The out of Africa hypothesis is the best scientific explanation that we have so far, and both the Tigris and the Euphrates are to the East from Africa.

    Adam may have been the first to migrate from Africa to that region of Earth, assuming that the Tigris and the Euphrates were not named in the Book just to make it feel like the story belongs to Israelites (or Iraqis) or some other practical purpose – maybe the actual story is about now extinct rivers with valleys currently sitting below the dunes of the Sahara, since the oldest known human fossil was found in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco.

    The Earth’s geology has changed drastically since the times of Adam (rivers dry and change courses for several reasons), so it may be pointless to try to find the exact location of Eden. However, the sources of both the Euphrates and the Tigris are in the mountains of Armenia, in the Caucasus, where the oldest human fossils out of Africa were found.

    Maybe the Euphrates and the Tigris had the same source in the past, in the Caucasus. Maybe Eden was an area around the Caucasus. Maybe the first chapters of the Book tell the story of Adam the first Caucasian, not the first actual human.

    The Flood

    Genesis 8:4 states that, after the flood, Noah’s ark came to rest on Mount Ararat. What do we find in Mount Ararat nowadays? The source of River Murat, also known as Eastern Euphrates. From Adam to Noah, everything the Book told happened in the Caucasus, probably somewhere in Armenia or Turkey.

    The flood story was well known in Sumer long before the Book was written and is part of the Sumerian creation myth. Maybe Israelites heard of it during their captivity in Babylon, but maybe both peoples knew about the great flood independently because such a calamity would be talked about across peoples and generations, and they ultimately have a common ancestor.

    There is evidence to suggest that that a mega flood caused by global warming hit the Black Sea, just West of the Caucasus, and raised its levels by 60 to 70 meters during the Late Pleistocene.

    It is well known that Neanderthals bred with modern humans in Europe until their extinction in the Late Pleistocene, and Genesis 7:21 tells us that mankind was extinguished in the flood.

    Maybe Noah and his family were modern humans, and everyone else in that area were Neanderthals. A flood of such proportions would have definitively killed anyone who was not prepared for it.

    ***

    What do you think? Can anyone refer any essay on the subject?
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2021
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  2. Ella S.

    Ella S. Gnostic Alchemist

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    I disagree. It's not that myths can't contain historical truth, but they are unreliable accounts of history. We would need to supplement them with extra-textual and archaeological evidence.

    This isn't how evolution works. There is no "first man." It's a series of small, incremental changes in a population.

    Clay was the material used in Mesopotamia to build the idols of various gods, who were believed to be animated by the spirit or breath of that being. I think this is a less speculative link.

    This isn't accurate. Genesis 1 talks about the "gods" plural. Genesis 2 talks about YHWH, which does not mean "Lord," but Lord is a title given to YHWH by later writers to avoid speaking his name. Adam and Eve are also clearly treated, narratively, as individuals. Genesis 5:2 could apply to two people, man and woman, just as much as it could be talking about several people.

    In other words, we have no demonstrable link between these myths and any real-world history. All potential links that we have are highly speculative without any evidence.

    Where do you get this idea from?

    Incest is an interesting topic. From my understanding, it is a shared taboo across almost all cultures. The incest among royalty was likely an exception to the rule, created by a particular culture only possible after civilization had been around for awhile to give rise to complex ideas about the purity of lineage in this way. Genesis is much older than this.

    Evidence of a shared myth with differing characteristics isn't evidence that said myth is true. If anything, it demonstrates that the myth has changed a lot as it was passed down in a similar manner to urban legends and fairy tales.

    There are quite a few historical floods in that region. Why have you chosen this one in particular?

    Are you taking the idea that modern humans descended from a single family literally here, or do you mean this locally? Why bring neanderthals into the picture at all? The myth describes sinners being killed by the flood, not a different species of human.

    Which subject? You brought up a few. Genesis is a sizable collection of texts. I think it would be better to approach each one individually.
     
  3. plouton6

    plouton6 Member

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    I never said otherwise. Myths may provide clues, but they aren't an isolated source of knowledge (or truth). I believe in science above all things. It's just that science may gain insight from myth.

    Sure, there isn't instant evolution. But there's a point when a different species arises because a genetic change was effected. Those populations are the first of their new species.


    As I said in the first paragraph, I'm hypothesizing, speculating. I want perspective from people who have been studying this. This seems like a good place to learn that kind of thing.

    I don't care if everyone says it's all wrong, it probably is. I wanna know why.

    I'll appreciate it if people explain instead of patronize.

    Because apparently it happened around the same time the Neanderthals disappeared from Europe.

    Some humans descended from Noah's clan, but definitively not everybody. I'm not even sure if "locally" would put it the right way.

    If the great flood happened around the time the Neanderthals disapperared from Europe, maybe there's some partial link there.

    Anything that compares the first few chapters to known history would be nice.
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Yes. And there's plenty of research that speculates on the idea that pre-writing cultures are very good at maintaining accuracy of oral traditions. There would be no need to invent, in that sense.

    I think myths evolved from a much broader context than that? Myths answer questions, evolve out of events ... all in all they are a means of finding meaning, value and purpose (etc) in narratives, by peoples not constrained by modern ideas of 'history' or 'historicity'.

    I'd say inspiration.

    Well Genesis 1 is dealing primary in the principle, the ontology of humans, rather than their historical manifestation.

    Well a couple of points:
    The term for 'man' adam, can mean an individual man, or mankind as such. The text is actually non-specific.
    'Clay' depends on your version. Douay-Rheims says 'slime'. Other versions say 'soil' or 'dust'. There are other alternatives.

    I'd say the link is between 'man' – 'adam' and further in the verse 'the ground' – 'adamah' – I understand this to mean man was brought forth from physical matter, and man is the union of spirit and matter.

    I can argue that Genesis does not contradict evolution, but not that Genesis confirms it. The sacred scribe would have found the idea of evolution preposterous, I think, and largely irrelevant to the point of the text.
     
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  5. plouton6

    plouton6 Member

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    I like this.

    Do you think it's possible that the scribe wasn't fully aware of the whole meaning (or multiple purposes or layers) of everything he/she was writing by inspiration?
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2021
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Oh yes.

    What I don't regard as necessary is that Genesis is history, any more than Genesis is science. Either way, it does not add to or detract from, the text.

    The early chapters, the creation account, are metaphysics, it's speculation, not about what being human is, but what being human means, for the sacred scribe all that other stuff is not the issue.
     
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  7. parta

    parta New Member

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    So when did all this happen? These are some ideas?

    Archbishop Ussher 4,004 BC.
    Using more recently available data, 4,115 BC.
    Rabbis calculate the date at 3,760 BC.
    Septuagint 5,540 BC.
    Yima via the Greeks ~7,000+ BC.

    Not times out of reach at all for us now really. The world was a different place then.
     
  8. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Earlier than that, I'd say ... we're looking at 'modern man' emerging something like 200,000 years ago?

    The appearance of Genesis is, of course, problematic.

    Scholars suggest Genesis appears to follow ancient patterns of origin stories among the peoples of the Near East. The closest are the Akkadian Atrahasis (1600BC) and the Sumerian Eridu Genesis (1600BC), both of which tell of a period from creation to the great Flood. Other parallels are there with the Akkadian Enuma Elish and Epic of Gilgamesh. It's not a case of borrowing, rather of shared knowledge that formed the basis of the traditions.

    Genesis shows evidence indicating its antiquity via customs which contradict later Pentateuchal law (eg Abram marrying his half sister, and Jacob marrying his sister-in-law).

    Tablets from Mari (archaeological find in Syria, written in Akkadian between 1800-1750BC) have place and personal names found in the early chapters of Genesis, showing that Genesis account is contemporary with such sources. Texts from Nuzi (a town in Northern Iraq and a cache of documents between 14575-1350BC) showed at least a dozen other parallels.

    The Pentateuch was compiled about a thousand years later, but details and customs in the lives of the patriarchs are now known to us from such sources, meaning the transmission was remarkably accurate, and not 'edited' to bring customs in line with the practice of the times.

    Of course, these are written materials, the oral traditions from which they derive reach back into prehistory.
     
  9. plouton6

    plouton6 Member

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    I guess that's the point. Science and history are definitely secondary to the text, but it doesn't mean they're totally absent, even if they're just unintended "side effects".

    Thanks for your kind clarifications.
     
  10. Ella S.

    Ella S. Gnostic Alchemist

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    I need to see these studies. Written tradition itself already accumulates a ton of errors, and they're copying the manuscripts directly. We know, due to a variety of forms of folklore, that stories usually transform as they're passed down. Take the Proto-Indo-European religion and all of its offshoots, for instance.

    I'm not sure that I believe this statement without some high quality evidence.
     
  11. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    Perhaps it wasn't just campfire tales and folk stories that were passed down, but structured songs and poems whose rhythm and rhyme made memorising them easier and which were preserved and propagated by the bards and shamans.

    The bards and shamans had a special place in their societies. They were protected. They had a hard and special training and there were severe penalties for corrupting the transmission. They were the keepers of history.

    The book 'Indaba My Chidren' by Zulu sangoma (witchdoctor) Credo Mutwa relates Southern African history from the indigenous side, before the colonialists arrived, and includes descriptions of the initiation to become a sangoma.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2021
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  12. plouton6

    plouton6 Member

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    I meant something along those lines. It was about making it easier for people to memorize information.
     
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  13. plouton6

    plouton6 Member

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    Do you know - or have a guess on - why the scribe bothered naming rivers and describing their courses as well as naming mountains?
     
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    OK. Not sure if I have the references to hand now.

    As I recall, there's terms and titles used in the biblical texts which were defunct long before the texts were written, but which evidence the survival, one way or another, of ancient oral traditions into the written texts. It also seemed to indicate that sometimes the scribes wrote or perhaps copied things they didn't understand, but did so because that's the way it had been handed down to them.

    I think there are studies to show that a dependence on written tradition actually weakened the line of oral transmission. The arts of remembering were lost, because they were no longer needed, and most likely difficult.

    I once attended a lecture where the speaker explained that 'illustrated manuscripts' are not merely decorative. The illustrations are an aide memoire, the speaker would picture the page in the mind, and then 'read' the text. The illustration makes this process simpler.

    But I think we also know the kernel remains?
     
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Well to answer that you'd have to interrogate Hebrew sources on the reading, meaning and interpretation of the Torah. But suffice to say the literal reading is always subservient and subsequent to the spiritual message.
     
  16. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    Which mountains? Fillmore believed every story, phrase, word had a deeper meaning.

    I believe the meanings of any scripture changes as we change.

    I gathered these from Unity's MBD

    The rivers Euphrates and Tigris (Hiddekel) rise in Armenia, which is supposed to be the land of Ararat of Bible history. The Hiddekel symbolizes the great nervous system in man; the Euphrates symbolizes the circulatory system of man. The nervous system lies very close to the mental and spiritual; the circulatory system is more in the region of the physical. Thus the realm of which Ararat is symbolical (the unknown) is the source of both the mental and the physical of man. We should call this source the realm of Spirit; it is a savior of life unto life, or of death unto death, according to whether the laws of Spirit are recognized and obeyed, or are unacknowledged in thought and act.

    river (mbd)
    river.

    Meta. A current of thought or a current of vital forces, of life. The "river" of Genesis 2:10 symbolizes the current of life in the organism (garden).

    ________________________


    Pishon (mbd)
    Pishon (A.V., Pison), pi-shon (Heb.) --great outpouring; full flowing; fully diffused; spread out; real existence; perfect substantiality; being, carried to its highest degree.

    One of the four rivers of Eden (Gen. 2:11).

    Meta. Pishon is defined as fully diffused, carried to its highest degree. This is descriptive of Spirit at work in man's consciousness, Spirit diffusing its ideas of intelligence and light, the activity of divine ideas in their fullness.

    The river Pishon is described as encompassing "the whole land of Havilah." Havilah represents the struggle of elemental life, virtue born of trial. There is gold in this land, which means that locked up in our body temple are all the treasures of Spirit. These are released by the inflow of spiritual Pishon

    Gihon (mbd)
    Gihon, gl'-hon (Heb.)--determining impulse; formative movement; a bursting forth; whirlpool; rapid stream.

    a A river of Eden (Gen. 2:13). b The name of a fountain, or a pool with springs, just outside the city of Jerusalem. David had Solomon taken there to be anointed king over Israel by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet (I Kings 1:33, 45; II Chron. 32:30).

    Meta. Gihon means formative movement. It represents the deific breath of God inspiring man and purifying his blood in the lungs. It flows through the darkened consciousness (Cush).

    The Gihon that was a fountain, or pool, with springs, just outside Jerusalem, indicates a bursting forth of joyous life and Truth. Substance and discrimination are also suggested by the "digestive system." Thus peace (Solomon) becomes the ruling factor of the heart and mind when abundant life, substance, and wisdom (discrimination) are realized.

    ________________________

    Hiddekel (mbd)
    Hiddekel, h`id'-de-kel (Heb.)--swift propagator; universal generative fluid; quick flowing; rapid stream; rapid spirituous influx.

    One of the four rivers of the Garden of Eden. It is the same river as the Tigris (Gen. 2:14).

    Meta. Hiddekel means universal generative fluid, rapid stream, rapid spiritual influx. The river Hiddekel symbolizes the spiritual nerve fluid that God is propelling throughout man's whole being continually, as the electro-magnetic center of every physically expressed atom. This wonderful stream of nerve fluid finds its way over all nerves in man's body temple, giving him the invigorating, steadying power of the Holy Spirit.

    Assyria represents the psychic realm of the soul. The nerve fluid, the most attenuated and volatile fluid of the body, breaks into flares at the ends of the nerves, giving rise to various kinds of psychical and mental action, forming character of soul. The mind uses the nerve flares to express its ideas. The primal Spirit elements continually seek expression. Man ever cries out for a higher, fuller way of life and will continue to do so until his full redemption into spirituality is accomplished.

    ________________________

    Euphrates (mbd)
    Euphrates, eu-phra'-te,s (Gk. fr. Heb.)--bursting forth; breaking out; fructifying; that which is the fructifying cause.

    One of the four rivers of Eden (Gen. 2:14). It is a large river in western Asia (II Sam. 8: 3, with margin; II Kings 23:29; Rev. 16:12).

    Meta. The fourth river, Euphrates, means "fructifying," or "that which is the fructifying cause." Metaphysically, it represents the blood stream. The circulatory system receives and distributes the nutrients contained in the food we eat. The blood stream is charged with the food substance for bone, muscle, brain, teeth, and hair. Every part of the organism is supplied with substance through this wonderful ri l
     
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  17. plouton6

    plouton6 Member

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    I had Mount Ararat in mind, but you covered everything.

    Thanks for the lesson (I don't mean this in a bad way).
     
  18. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    I find it interesting when the meaning of names (wells, towns, tribes) is spelled out in the bible...lends a lot to contemplation.
     
  19. Ella S.

    Ella S. Gnostic Alchemist

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    Assuming that there is one and that the original story wasn't invented entirely or relied on specific allegory that was lost through a multi-generational game of telephone.
     
  20. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    It is said that the Vedas have been so perfectly preserved in every tone and nuance that to hear them sung today is like listening to a tape recording from 1500BC.

    A special effort was taken to preserve their authenticity
     

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