Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A People in Search for a History, Pt. 5

The Exodus

Ask anyone in my generation about the exodus and a movie  immediately comes to our minds. Yeah.
Charlton Heston. Yul Bryner. Towering waves. A romantic triangle between Moses, Rameses, and Nefertiri. Huge armies and spectacular panoramas of Egypt. If that was the exodus, any thought that this exodus actually happened seems silly. It's a movie, for goodness sake!

   But if you saw the movie as I did on the big screen rather on television last Easter season, you may remember the producer and director Cecil B. DeMille stepping out on a bare stage to speak to movie-goers about the background of the story. (This preamble is usually skipped on TV.)

   I was vaguely aware of the biblical story before seeing DeMille and the movie, and I remember thinking: There's more here than I remember from Sunday school. Fifty years later when I watched the entire film again, this time on DVD, I was again intrigued by what DeMille knew of Moses that the Bible does not relate.

   Where did he get the additional information?

   Some of it came from Josephus Antiquities, Book II some from Philo Judaeus Philo. Today as we read these texts, the first impression is that there is a lot of hype, literary license, and a clear apologetic purpose.  But there is also information that cannot be accounted for by creative license, filling in the sparse narrative of the biblical narrative, or by allegory (Philo). There are pieces that are intended to be read as factual and which seem to have required sources outside the Bible.

   What were those sources?

   Jospehus refers to several of his sources in Contra Apion. They include a quotation from an Egyptian priest-historian Manetho writing from about 300 B.C. (see Josephus' quote of Manetho Manetho). Egyptologist Dr. Donald B. Redford writes in Pharaonic King Lists, Annals and Day Books (Benben Publications, 1986) "we may with confidence postulate for the material in his history a written source found in the [Egyptian] temple library, and nothing more." But we can postulate that, and infer that written sources were purely Egyptian without dependence upon the biblical account.

  Josephus also includes a reference to Chaeremon of Alexandria (mid-first century A.D.) who, as a Egyptian historian, wrote about the Egyptian history of Moses. His account of Moses and Manetho's agree sufficiently to say that they are the same story, but they differ in significant details so that we may infer they depended upon different sources.

   Josephus and Philo may have been DeMille's sources, but they were not the only ancient writers to mention Moses. Wiki Moses  It turns out that Moses and the exodus is a very durable story in ancient history. It is true that Greek and Egyptian writers portray Moses as a mythical or legendary character. BUT THE CORRELATION IN THE CORE OF THE STORIES POINT TO A LITERAL PERSON AND TO THE EXODUS AS A HISTORICAL EVENT.

Before Moses

   Here we return to the biblical account and to the history of Egypt.

   The book of Exodus begins with the backstory of the people of Israel in Egypt. Sometime after Joseph brought his family to Egypt during the time of Asiatic  (Hyksos) migration in the early 2nd millennium B.C. a new king came to the throne who "knew not Joseph." ("Knew not" may mean had no respect for rather than did not know about.)
8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. 9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. (Exodus 1)

   This would have been after the Egyptians under Pharaoh Ahmose I (reign 1570-1546) expelled the Hyksos Pharaohs and the Asiatic people of Avaris in 1550 B.C. At that time Ahmose I and Thutmose I (reign 1520-1492)  in several campaigns north along the coast of the Levant pursued the Hyksos as far as the Euphrates River in Syria and sought to make the borders of Egypt firm against any reinvasion of the Hyksos.

   Much of the focus of the Pharaohs in the years after the expulsion of the Hyksos was defensive. They feared the return of the Hyksos. It is understandable that the Egyptian Pharaohs would have seen any remaining Asiatics in Egypt, including the people of Israel, as potential enemies.

   Consequently, the Pharaohs established measures to reduce and control the Asiatic (Canaanite and
Israelite) and Nubian people who had allied with the Hyksos rulers. This mural painted on the walls of the tomb of Rekhmire, the Egyptian vizier (or prime minister) in the mid-15th century B.C.E. illustrate the practice of forced labor during the reign of Thutmose III (reign 1458-1425). Center for Online Jewish Studies The painting includes both Asiatic and Nubian slaves. This is at precisely the traditional time of the exodus and is described in Exodus 1:
11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly. (Exodus 1)

   Moses and the Exodus

   As noted above, there is adequate reference to Moses or a Moses-like character in Egyptian sources in addition to the biblical text to conclude that Moses was a literal, historical person. There is adequate reference to conclude that he was seen by the Egyptian Pharaohs as a threat and that the Egyptians expelled him and the people of the upper eastern Nile Delta from Egypt. In other words, there is adequate evidence to affirm as historical an exodus of the Israelite people, or a portion of the Israelite people, at about the time that has been traditionally assigned to the exodus, 1450 B.C. But the exodus itself?

   The biblical account of the exodus, however, still seems exaggerated. Six hundred thousand men on foot plus women and children and baggage leaving Egypt in mass is extreme. The lack of evidence for a forty-year trek through the desert or an encampment at Kadesh Barnea for "many days," not to speak of two  million people in the desert, leaves archaeologists skeptical. The opposition from the people of Edom, a people far fewer in number than the estimated two million Israelites and the details of life and organization in the desert, leave biblical scholars puzzled. They don't seem to make sense if there were two million people. And there are other anomalies. But...

  The large numbers in the biblical text are really not a surprise. Egyptian literature ascribes equally large numbers to their own armies in various campaigns. There were four hundred-eighty thousand soldiers who laid siege the Hyksos capital of Avaris according to Manetho in Josephus:

"The shepherds [Hyksos] had built a wall surrounding this city, which was large and strong, in order to keep all their possessions and plunder in a place of strength.
Tethmosis, son of Alisphragmuthosis, attempted to take the city by force and by siege with four hundred and eighty thousand men surrounding it. But he despaired of taking the place by siege, and concluded a treaty with them, that they should leave Egypt, and go, without any harm coming to them, wherever they wished. After the conclusion of the treaty they left with their families and chattels, not fewer than two hundred and forty thousand people, and crossed the desert into Syria. (Against Apion, Book 1, section 73)
   Exaggeration? Maybe not.

   Though the numbers in this campaign, for which there is ample historical evidence, seem exaggerated to us, it is possible they are not. Ahmose's campaign against the Hyksos may well have taken the larger part of the men under arms in Upper Egypt, the Theban Pharaoh's kingdom.

   It is likewise possible that the  number of Israelites who left Egypt under Moses a century later were, in fact, "six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children" (Exodus 12:37). Manetho writes that the people of Avaris (the presumed Israelites) were aided by two hundred thousand men from those who had been previously expelled to Jerusalem (Against Apion, Book 1, section 227). Those men would have considerably increased the number of Israelites.

   Josephus continuing to quote Manetho writes that the Egyptians mustered "three hundred thousand of the most warlike Egyptians against the enemy," which in this case was the people gathered to Osarsiph, the man Josephus identifies as Moses. Three hundred thousand would not be out of line with the biblical account that states Pharaoh took "six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them" (Exodus 14:7).

   Our present knowledge of Egypt calls into question the accuracy of Manetho's history. He seems to conflate several different events, and he doesn't seem to have the kings identified correctly. Even Josephus considered Manetho's history inaccurate and an anti-Semitic polemic. But if Manetho was using numbers he found in more ancient Egyptian texts, the numbers may have reflected an older tradition, and related to the biblical account of the exodus, the numbers found in Exodus at least fit the custom of the ancient writers to insert large numbers when writing about military campaigns.

   Bottom line, the large numbers do not make the biblical narrative unhistorical any more than the large numbers make the Egyptian siege of Avaris unhistorical.

   In addition, the story of the Israelites in Sinai is plausible. If the route taken by the fleeing Israelites took them to south central Sinai, as the tradition biblical description recommends,  "they would have found a reasonably adequate water supply and a relatively comfortable climate that makes it possible to maintain a daily lifestyle suitably adapted to the conditions of the desert." Itzhaq Beit Arieh  


   Other details and sometimes lack of details in the biblical narrative of the exodus are still puzzling. Were the forty years of wandering symbolic or literal? Where did their journey take them? Is Jebal el Lawz in Arabia a better fit for Mt. Sinai than Nebal Musa in the southern Sinai? What were the Egyptians doing? Were they simply glad to get rid of the rebels? Neither the Bible nor Egyptian history give us enough information to answer those questions.

   But the core of the exodus narrative, correlated as it is with Egyptian texts, reliefs, and archaeological evidence for Israel in Canaan in the centuries following the exodus, seems very probable. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

A People in Search of a History, Pt. 4

 Israel in Canaan
Pharaoh Merneptah, son of Rameses II
The people who are called Jews today show up in history 3200 years ago when we first see their ancestral name Israel on the Merneptah Stele.

Pharaoh Merneptah (reign 1213-1203 B.C.) made a short campaign into Canaan. On the stele that recorded his victories is this mention of Israel. It reads in part:
Plundered is Canaan with every evil;
Carried off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer;
Yanoam is made as that which does not exist;
Israel is laid waste, his seed is not;
Hurru is become a widow for Egypt!
All lands together, they are pacified. Yinon Blog
   Scholars have debated what the reference to Israel means precisely. Does it mean that Israel was engaged and completely defeated by Merneptah, or is "seed" a reference to grain supplies that were destroyed? Is this "Israel" in the trans-Jordan east of the Jordan River or in the hill country of Canaan west of the Jordan? One scholar, Dr. Joseph Davidovits, even proposes that the stone has been mistranslated and should read that "Israel exists" rather than "is laid waste." In any case, most all agree that Israel as a people are present in Canaan in  1206 and are significant enough to be  mentioned alongside the city states of Ashkelon and Gezer.

   (In traditional Bible chronology, 1206 would be in the latter years of the period of judges.) 

   That raises a question for Bible scholars, historians and archaeologist: where did the Israelites come from?

Origin of Israel

   The biblical narrative is quite clear. The people of Israel are the ancestors of Abram (later named Abraham). And Abraham came from Ur in lower Mesopotamia (now in Iraq) in the late third millennium B.C. (circa 2100).  He migrated with his family first to Haran in upper Mesopotamia (now in Turkey). Then he moved on to Canaan where he lived as a semi-nomadic Shepherd.

   In Canaan he had a son named Isaac. This son married a woman from his extended family that remained in Haran and had two sons Esau and Jacob. Jacob married two women also from the extended family in Haran and had twelve sons. Eventually, this family, seventy in all, migrated to Egypt because of a famine in Canaan. The year was about 1800 B.C.
The travels of Abraham

   After some centuries in Egypt this family had increased greatly and were eventually seen as a danger to the Egyptians who saw them as foreigners who might take sides with the enemies of Egypt (Exodus 1:1-9).  So the Egyptians forced them to work as laborers making clay bricks to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses. (If this happened prior to the time of the Pharaoh Rameses, the name is probably a reading back into the historical memory the name of the city that replaced Zoan.) Finally, Moses a Israelite who had been adopted and raised by an Egyptian princess, took the side of the oppressed Israelites, confronted the Pharaoh, and escaped with these Israelite people into the desert finally coming into Canaan in about 1400 B.C.according to traditional biblical dating.

   It is a remarkable story. It may be the oldest continuous family narrative that we have from ancient history. The story has been made into epic movies and told to countless Jewish boys and girls and Sunday school children over many centuries. But did it really happen? What can archaeology and history tells us?

   We begin with Abraham. Is it plausible that a family, Semitic people, in Ur migrated to Canaan? Some scholars say no. See California State University, Long Beach. The author of "An Incomplete History" writes:

One problem with the Hebrew history is the dearth of good archaeological evidence to support the Abraham story, and the richness of contradicting archaeological evidence. As Gary Greenburg notes, "while it used to be almost universally taken for granted that the Patriarchs and the sons of Israel where historical figures and that Genesis mixed some basic historical truths with a variety of legends, a growing segment of the scholarly community accepts that the patriarchal stories may have no historical core at all."

   The answer from history and archaeology is that it is not only plausible but that it happened. Thousands of people left lower Mesopotamia around 2000 B.C. The reason was unrest and war in Mesopotamia. First the Guti people from the northern mountains invaded and controlled the region. After they were repulsed by the Semitic inhabitants of Mesopotamia, specifically of Ur, Mesopotamia was again invaded, this time by the non-Semitic Elamites from the east. According to the author of "Mesopotamia" the result was devastating.

By 2000 B.C. the combined attacks of the Amorites, a Semitic people from the west, and the Elamites, a Caucasian people from the east, had destroyed the Third Dynasty of Ur. (Iraq: a Country Study Sam Huston State University)
   There is no record of a single mass migration. But there is textual evidence of a movement of Semitic people taking place over many years. Much of that is found in the Mari archives. More of those later.

   The natural migration route is north along the Euphrates River. It led eventually to the lands of the west-Semitic speaking people called the Amorites whose homeland was Syria and along the coast of the Levant including into Canaan.

   At the northern-most point of the route was an oasis, the city and region of Haran. Today on a google map satellite view the area is green with crops and well water from the Balikh River, a tributary of the Euphrates. In 2000 B.C. Haran was also the location of an important city, important because it was on the crossroads between Egypt and Babylon and points east. It is there that the biblical narrative tells us that Abraham's family stopped - for a time.

   Haran was a wonderful place. But just because it was rich and on a strategic crossroads, it was also a place contested by every people group from nomadic tribes to major empires. So many of the migrating people moved on from Haran.

   Is it plausible that Abraham of the biblical narrative was among those migrating peoples? Absolutely. The biblical narrative fits so well the history of this period of time and the descriptions in the Mari texts, an archive of documents found at Mari in Syria,  that Genesis reads like a primary source for the history of the time.

   Dr. Bryant Wood writes in  Biblical Archaeology that "the findings at Mari show that the Patriarchal narratives [biblical narratives] accurately reflect the socioeconomic conditions of that time and place." Bryant Wood.

   In the Jewish Virtual Library the author writes:

The picture revealed in the Mari archives, of far-reaching tribal migrations (such as those of Yaminite groups) and caravan conditions between the Euphrates region and Syria-Northern Palestine, provides an analogy for the biblical narratives of the patriarchal wanderings between Aram-Naharaim and Canaan. Mari
In other words, the Biblical narrative and the sources outside the Bible fit together. In fact, reading the whole article in the Jewish Virtual Library we find that many of the features of life for the Israelites such as covenants, patrimony, the ban, et al. were features of the society described in the Mari texts.

   [It is difficult to believe that these could be made up 1500 years later or that the authors of 600 B.C. who the New Biblical Scholars claim to be the authors of Genesis could have access to these details and have written them into the story.]

   Is it plausible that Abraham was among these migrating people?

   It is more than plausible. The detail and the correlation between the events testified to in history and the socioeconomic conditions revealed in the Mari texts make it highly likely. The Bible is history. It is the story of an ordinary individual and a family rather than a king or official, but it is history. 

   The biblical narrative says that Abraham also moved on after a period of years, though not all his family; some of them remained in Haran. Abraham's destination was Canaan.

   Canaan was not in 2000 B.C. a wilderness as it is often characterized in Sunday school stories of Abraham. In fact, a close reading of the biblical narrative in Genesis reveals that it was well populated with towns and cities that date back thousands of years, as in the case of Jericho, and the target of raids from kings to the north and east. And Canaan was on the road - we could almost call it a freeway - between the cities and Empires of Mesopotamia and Egypt.

   Canaan was also, even this early, a battlefield over which the armies of the Empires of that day sought control. We might actually see Canaan as in the very center of things rather than a land protected by it remoteness.

The Hyksos

   But Canaan was also a land dependent upon rain. No great rivers Like the Nile or the Euphrates  provided water through dry seasons. Drought would bring famine, and famine drove many of these newly arrived migrant people onward toward Egypt. So as early as 1900 B.C. Egyptian texts and art describe migrating people from the east, whom the Egyptians called Asiatics, filtering into lower Egypt and settling in the water rich delta region of the Nile River. These people would later be called the Hyksos, but ethnically they were Semites.
An earlier group of Asiatic peoples depicted entering Egypt c. 1900 BC, from the tomb of a Twelfth Dynasty official Khnumhotep II under pharaoh Senusret II at Beni Hasan.
   The Bible describes just such a migration but in miniature. It was the migration of Joseph's family to Egypt. The date was around 1800 B.C. (Genesis 45). The picture above shows what such a migration looked like.

   At that point in the biblical narrative in Genesis we are told that Joseph became powerful, second only to the Pharaoh, and that the family of Joseph, the Israelites, were given land in Lower Egypt. At that point the narrative ends. But we know from many Egyptian historical sources that in fact the Asiatic Hyksos increased in number in Egypt and by 1650 B.C. came to rule Lower Egypt and for a time most of Egypt. Their capital city was Avaris in the delta area. That is precisely where Joseph's family settled, Goshen.

   Over the next 100 years tensions between the Hyksos rulers and the native Egyptian rulers in Upper Egypt increased. War ensued and the Hyksos of Avaris were forced to retreat to Sharuhen, a city in the vicinity of present day Gaza along the coast of Canaan.  The battle is depicted in this mural and described by Ahmose, son of Abana, a soldier in the Egyptian army.

Ahmose, son of Abana, describes his part in the battles with the Hyksos:

Now when I had established a household, I was taken to the ship "Northern", because I was brave. I followed the sovereign on foot when he rode about on his chariot. When the town of Avaris was besieged, I fought bravely on foot in his majesty's presence. Thereupon I was appointed to the ship khaemmennefer ("Rising in Memphis"). Then there was fighting on the water in "P'a-djedku" of Avaris. I made a seizure and carried off a hand. When it was reported to the royal herald the gold of valour was given to me. Then they fought again in this place; I again made a seizure there and carried off a hand.  Then I was given the gold of valour once again. Then there was fighting in Egypt to the south of this town. and I carried off a man as a living captive. I went down into the water - for he was captured on the city side - and crossed the water carrying him. When it was reported to the royal herald I was rewarded with gold once more. Then Avaris was despoiled, and I brought spoil from there: one man, three women; total, four persons. His majesty gave them to me as slaves. Then Sharuhen was besieged for three years. His majesty despoiled it and I brought spoil from it: two women and a hand. Then the gold of valour was given me, and my captives were given to me as slaves. Ahmose biography

   In the battle of Sharuhen Ahmose I prevailed and pushed the Hyksos further back from Egypt and dispersed them.

   Was there an exodus from Egypt of the Asiatics? Absolutely.

   This exodus, however, is not the exodus described in the biblical narrative in Exodus. It is the vanquishing of rulers, not slaves. And it is earlier by traditional chronology than the biblical exodus by about 100 years. But it is virtually certain that among the Hyksos who were expelled and dispersed from Egypt there were some of the Israelite people. The Egyptians would not have distinguished between the Hyksos and the Israelites. They were of the same ethnic origins. They lived in the same area of Lower Egypt. And they spoke the same Semitic language. Some would have been caught up in the retreat from Egypt.

   But it is certain that not all the Asiatics were expelled. In fact, over 100 years later what look like Asiatics are pictured along with Nubians in this "famous painting from the tomb of Rekhmire, who served as Grand Vizier to two pharaohs in the 15th century BCE" which shows a large group of slaves making bricks as forced laborers for the Pharaoh. Stephen Tempest, Quora

 The 15th century is the time of the biblical exodus.

   It is significant that the dispersed Asiatic Hyksos who were pushed back into Canaan would be there, already aligned with the Israelites left in Egypt, and ready to merge with them as they came out of Egypt in a second exodus.

   But was there a second exodus? There is no extant evidence for it in Egyptian art or texts. However, Josephus quotes Manetho, an Egyptian historian writing in 300 B.C.  who indicates that an Egyptian priest named Osarsêph who after the expulsion of the Hyksos organized a revolt of the "lepers" in Avaris which was the Hyksos city in Lower Egypt. The "leper" leader (some scholars see "leper" as a metaphorical reference to people who worshiped a different God from that of the Egyptians) later changed his name to Moses.University of Chicago See lines 227-287.

   Manetho's story appeared to Josephus to be an anti-semitic rant and a fiction.  But some scholars see in it a kernel of fact. If so, Manetho may well be referring to the Moses of the biblical exodus. In that case there is a foundation for a second exodus in Egyptian history.

   We have come to the final chapter of our quest for the historicity of the exodus account. That will be the topic of Part 5 of this series.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A People in Search of a History, Pt. 3

Archaeology Tells the Story

It is of interest but no surprise when archaeologists find evidence for the Roman siege of Jerusalem
Ballista Balls
2000 years ago.These ballista stones pictured to the right were hurled against the defending Jews by the Roman legion attacking Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Along with the stones, arrowheads of the Jewish defenders were also found recently as excavations organized by Nahshon Szanton and Moran Hagbi have been carried on. Times of Israel But we need no stones or arrow heads. It is no big deal. The history of the Jewish-Roman War is well documented.

   When a royal seal that once belonged to King Hezekiah is found in what appears to be a collapsed administrative building, that is a big deal. haaretz That find is evidence that Jerusalem was no insignificant village but the administrative center for
Hezekiah Bulla
a kingdom. And it, of course, confirms the reign of Hezekiah prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in the sixth century B.C.

   The seal, or bulla, was not the only find in the dig conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar. Thirty-three other bullae were uncovered including one with the name of one of the officials in Hezekiah's court.

   The historicity of Hezekiah does not depend on the seals, however. Long before those finds the reign of King Hezekiah was confirmed in the historical records of Assyria. 

   One of those was the Sennecharib prism found by Colonel Robert Taylor in 1830. The Taylor Prism was found in Ninevah, the capital of Assyria. In all, three prisms have been found. The three Sennecharib prisms give the Assyria version of the wars between Hezekiah and the
Sennecharib Prisim
Assyrians. Though there are differences in the Assyrian accounts and the Bible, they agree on the larger picture and not only mention Hezekiah but imply by what is not said: Sennachrib did not conquer Jerusalem.

   Additional Assyrian texts confirm the fulfillment of the prophecy Isaiah made regarding Sennecharib's death given in 2 Kings 19:6-7. An inscription from the annals of Esar-haddon (680 B.C.):
In the month of Nisan . . . I made my joyful entrance into the royal palace, the awesome place wherein abides the fate of kings. A firm determination fell upon my brothers. They forsook the gods and returned to their deeds of violence, plotting evil . . . . They revolted. To gain the kingship they slew Sennacherib, their father"
   These finds anchor the biblical narrative found in the Hebrew Scriptures to the history of the Middle East known through other texts and artifacts. The Bible is right on through about 700 B.C. But the trail becomes more difficult to follow as we look for Judah and Israel in the years between 700 B.C. and the time of David's kingdom in about 1000 B.C.

Moabite Stone
  One significant find does provide evidence for Israel, the Moabite Stone. It mentions King Omri of Israel, the "House of David," Israel's God Yahweh, and the political situation which the Bible describes in 2 Kings 3:4-8. It is also one of four other artifacts that mention Israel: the Merneptah Stone, Tel Dan Stele, and two Assyrian Stelae called the Kurkh Monoliths Kurkh Monoliths

   The Kurkh Monoliths date to the mid-ninth century and mention Ahab King of Israel. The Tel Dan Stele mentions the House of David. It dates to approximately the same time. The Merneptah Stele dates to about 1200 B.C.

   That is pretty solid evidence for Israel being in the land of Canaan and for many of the events recorded in the biblical narrative.

   In addition, archaeology has uncovered many of the details of ordinary life in Israel during the period of the kings (1000 - 600 B.C.). Those include many of the high places of pagan worship and figurines of gods and goddesses whom many Israelites and Jews worshiped along with Yahweh and which were destroyed in the purges of Hezekiah and Josiah recorded in  the Bible.

   There is, of course, much more. Archaeologists have recently uncovered what might be a wall of the palace of David in the City of David. NOVA and mines that may have supplied the copper for articles created for Solomon's temple. National Geographic

   A list of artifacts related to the history of Israel can be found here Wiki

   None of this is fiction.

   Contrary to the opinions coming from the men and women who are the New Biblical Scholars there was no rewriting of history at the time of Josiah or following return of the Jews to the land of Israel after the exile in Babylon. Along with the biblical narrative in the Old Testament we have pretty detailed and conclusive archaeological evidence for Israel from the time of the kings, and those two lines of evidence, the biblical narrative and archaeology, agree.  It is the time before the  kings which is quite a bit fuzzier. In particular, the archaeological record leaves us with little direct evidence for the exodus or the conquest of Canaan that is recorded in the Pentateuch and the books of Joshua and Judges.

   One of the complications is the fragmented history of Egypt between the coming of the Hyksos to Egypt and the expulsion of these Asian people a several hundred years later (1550 B.C.). And fragmented it is - literally. The Hyksos were an Asiatic people from the east of Egypt who migrated to Egypt and settled beginning in about 1900 B.C. They gradually became numerous and powerful and reigned in  Lower Egypt as the 15th Dynasty between 1650 and 1550 B.C.

   Tensions grew between the Egyptians and the Hyksos new comers until the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt in 1550 B.C.

   So thoroughly did the Egyptians hate the Hyksos that they sought to erase the memory of their existence in Egypt. The Egyptians destroyed or defaced the statues of these Hyksos Pharaohs and erased the record of their exploits from temple walls, leaving a very incomplete record for historians to trace. Today Egyptologists are not even sure how many Hyksos reigned as Pharaohs.

   What we do know is that the Hyksos and the Hebrews were in Egypt at the same time.

   A number of authors and historians have even seen a correlation between the Hyksos and the Hebrews. Josephus went so far as to say the Hyksos were the Hebrews. That is probably not accurate. But the time in which the Hyksos came to Egypt, a name that sounds like Joseph that recurs again and again in this history, and the final expulsion of the Hyksos have some very interesting parallels with the biblical narrative of the the Hebrews in Egypt.

   The author of Biblical Archaeology: Evidence of the Exodus from Egypt on Bible and Science has
Asiatics (Hyksos) entering Egypt

put together a long list of evidence that reveals many of the details of this period of time. At the core of the evidence is the period of the Hyksos and the 15th dynasty.

(The picture to the right is from the tomb of a 12th dynasty official Khnumhotep II, circa 1880 B.C.  It depicts Asiatic people, possibly Semitic, migrating to Egypt. It is fascinating to think that this group of Asiatics may have looked very much like Jacob's family as they traveled to Egypt. )
   The Hyksos entered Egypt in what modern scholars now see as a gradual migration being in about 1900 B.C. approximately at the time when the clan of Jacob went down to Egypt to escape a famine.They were shepherds, probably from Canaan and east, and settled in Lower Egypt delta which the Bible calls Goshen.Though the Hebrews were not the Hyksos, they were related and would not have been seen by the Egyptins as distinct. The correlation between the story of Joseph in Genesis makes that story entirely plausible if not highly probable.

   The Hyksos gradually increased and became the rulers of Lower Egypt between 1650 and 1550 B.C. when the Egyptians who ruled Upper Egypt expelled them. Many of the Hyksos settled in Canaan. Along with the Hyksos it is plausible that Hebrews were also included in this expulsion. This settlement in Canaan in
Arial picture of the tel of ancient Jericho
the mid-1500s correlates with the date for the destruction of Jericho estimated by British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon to be about 1550 and tentatively dated by Carbon-14 to a range that would include that date Jericho  though more recent research on Jericho suggests that the traditional date of 1400 B.C. may well be the more accurate date. Biblical Archaeology

   In any event, the destruction of Jericho correlates with what was happening in Canaan during that turbulent period of the Hyksos and the subsequent expulsion of another group of Asiatics mentioned by Ptolemaic Egyptian writer Manetho (cc. 300 B.C.)  and quoted by Josephus in Contra Apion.

   It was Manetho's contention that the rebellion and expulsion of a group of Asiatic rebels led by a man named Moses told on the walls of a temple is the Egyptian version of the exodus story. Or so the story goes as we read the strange tale as told in Josephus' writing.

   There are other even stranger tales of Moses told by Josephus and others, but Egyptologist Jan Assmann is of the opinion that there is some truth in Manetho's story.
Assmann, author of the book "Moses the Egyptian," argues that the story Manetho recounts is based on traditions that were left over from two traumatic events in Egyptian history: the religious revolution by Pharaoh Akhenaten, known as the Heretic King, who tried to ban idol worship and impose a monotheistic religion with the sun god Aten at its center; and Egypt's conquest by the Semitic Hyksos shepherds. Haaretz
   It is here that we come to the exodus story in the Pentateuch. Is it historical? Is it a hero tale or legend as other Moses stories seem to be? How should read and understood? That will be the topic of "A People in Search of a History, Pt. 4." What we know so far is that the stories in Genesis and Exodus about the Hebrew people in Egypt are credible. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A People in Search of a History, Pt. 2

History Tells the Story

Nothing is more politically and emotionally charged in the Middle East today than the question of Israel's legitimacy. That passionate debate has found its way into archaeology and more recently the science of DNA. The battle lines can be seen in the wiki article on the subject of "Y-chromosomal Aaron" Wiki 

   What seems to be emerging, however, is a growing body of evidence that traces the traditional Jewish priestly line, the Cohens, back to the tenth century B.C. if not earlier. (Since the Kohanim are one of the tribes of Israel, that would also connect the rest of the Jewish people to an origin earlier than 1000 B.C. ) Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz writing for Breaking Israeli News states the case for tracing the line of the Cohens (kohanim) back to biblical Aaron.  

While it may sound a bit like science fiction, geneticists have verified the link which connects the present-day group of men classified as kohanim to the Biblical figure of Aaron, who lived over 3,000 years ago....

Based on the mutations found in the genes, scientists place the original kohen – the first common ancestor – at approximately 3,300 years ago, a timeline that fits neatly within the Biblical parameters of the lifetimes of the first priestly family.

   Berkowitz is writing unabashedly from an Orthodox Jewish perspective and pro-Israeli position. Yet it is a mistake to dismiss the evidence in the DNA. The fact is the priestly line of the Cohens has a history, and that history takes them back very close to the time at which they emerge in the biblical narrative of the exodus in Leviticus 8 and 9 with the consecration of Aaron.

   If the DNA evidence takes us back to the time of the  exodus, there should be other evidence that would coordinate with the DNA evidence. And there is; it is the written history of the Jewish people, nation, and religion.

   First of all, there are the traditions and festivals in Leviticus 23 passed on from the days of Moses and, many of them, kept continuously and carefully, week by week and year by year to this day by Jews around the world.The Passover is one example. It is the defining tradition for the Jews.

   The Passover, celebrates the salvation of Israel from Egypt. Though there were times of apostasy during the period of the kings in which the Passover was neglected, the Passover festival is traced in the written history back to its origin in the exodus and to the moment when the Jews escaped the slavery of Egypt and began their journey to becoming a nation (Exodus 12). It was commanded as a perpetual festival in Leviticus 23, and Jews around the world celebrate it each year.  Without that command and the event upon which it is founded, it would be difficult to imagine how or why such a highly detailed and symbolically meaningful tradition might have originated.

   The Sabbath is another tradition for which there is evidence of an unbroken chain reaching back to the its inception as part of the Law given by God through Moses. It is mentioned ninety-six times in the Hebrew Scriptures and fifty-eight times in the New Testament. It too is kept today by Jews around the world.

   Perhaps the most significant acknowledgement of the importance of the Sabbath through the history of the Old Testament is the Levites' review of the history of Israel before the assembly of the Jews in Nehemiah 9. The Jews had recently returned from exile in Babylon. They had rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem destroyed by the Babylonians.  After they had read from the book of the Law they praised God for his calling and protection of the nation, and they mentioned in particular the Sabbath among the laws given though Moses.
You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good.  You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. (Nehemiah 9:13,14)
   A wise rabbi Ahad Ha’am had this to say on the subject: “More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.” And he is right. The Sabbath has for all its history been a weekly reminder that they the Jewish people ARE because the Lord called them into being as a people. It has kept them distinct and separate among the nations for 3300 years.

   The blessing the kohanim speak on holy days is another tradition passed on through the centuries. The kohanim are the priests and the sons of Aaron the brother of Moses. They have keep an unbroken lineage from the time of the exodus (witnessed to by the DNA evidence above) and continue to bless Israel with the blessing they received from Moses: "Say to Aharon and his sons… Thus shall you bless the people of Israel."
May HaShem bless you and protect you.
May HaShem shine his face upon you and be gracious unto you.
May HaShem lift up His face to you and may He grant you peace.
Numbers 6:22-26

   But the most impressive evidence comes from the Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew Scriptures are made up of 37 books (Kings and Chronicles are each single books) written at various times over about 1000 years by a variety of authors, yet they form an  interdependent, connected narrative of the history of the Israelites tied together by the religion the Jews believe was revealed to them through Moses.

   One of the significant features of the Hebrew Scriptures is that they often include multiple witnesses to the history of the Jews. The books of Kings and Chronicles are roughly parallel narratives of the period of the kings (1000 - 600 B.C.) narratives that are augmented by the writing of the prophets who lived during the time covered by Kings and Chronicles. Together they constitute a strong historical record.

   Chronicles tells the story of the Jews from the priestly point of view and emphasizes the religious and spiritual life of the nation and the kings. Kings emphasizes the political life and traces the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah to the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. Both of the histories are written in retrospect in dependence on the annals of the kings that were written during the lifetimes of the kings.

   The two books were written by different authors, Kings during the exile in Babylon in the mid-sixth century Chronicles after the exile as the nation is being reconstituted. The two histories overlap and agree. And they both include a number of shared motifs.

   Consider the temple. Without exception from the time of Solomon, as recorded in  the books of Kings and Chronicles through the books of Nehemiah and Ezra, the temple occupies center stage in the religion and life of the Jews.

   The construction of the temple is recorded in 1 Kings 7 and 2 Chronicles 3 under King Solomon in the mid-tenth century. Both descriptions agree.

   Two hundred years later Isaiah's experience in the temple (Isa. 6) was the moment of his calling as a prophet.  Isaiah writes: " In the year that King Uzziah died [about 740 B.C.], I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple."

   Micah writing about the same time as Isaiah foretells the destruction of the temple, and writer who wrote the addendum to Jeremiah (Chapter 52) tells of the destruction of the temple by the  Babylonians in the year 587/586 B.C.

   Corroborating the Babylonian conquest of Judah, the Nebuchadnezzar Chronicle briefly refers to the first siege of Jerusalem about 10 years earlier than the the second siege at which Jerusalem was captured and the temple and city destroyed. No extra-biblical source records the second siege or the destruction of the temple.

  After both sieges many of the Jewish men of rank were deported to Babylonia. (Jer. 52:27-30)   Clay tablets discovered in Iraq in the 1970s describe the life of the Jews who were deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar 
One of the tablets from Iraq

   In 538/537 B.C. after the Persian king Cyrus had conquered Babylon he allowed return of many deported people including the Jews to their homelands. Cyrus also allowed the Jews to rebuild the temple which was completed in  516 B.C. exactly 70 years after its destruction - as Jeremiah had foretold.

   The book of Ezra tells of the building of the second temple in the mid-fifth century under the authority of Cyrus King of Persia. The prophets Zachariah and Malachi speak to the Jews during this period encouraging them to remain faithful to the old laws and religious traditions. This is the temple that stood at the time of Jesus and was destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D. And though 450 years separate Ezra and Jesus, the same rituals, sacrifices and priesthood continued. The several inter-testamental books (the Apocrypha) witness to the continued history of the temple (1 Maccabees 4:36). 

   Included in the books of Israel and Judah's history are the stories of kings one after the other in Biblical Archaeology
King Jehu of Israel bowing before Assyrian King Shalmanesser III.
connected narratives. Assyrian records corroborate nine of the  kings of Israel and Judah.

   Chronicles includes list of the priests and Levites associated with the temple and worship (1 Chronicles 6) in a lineage that takes the reader back to Aaron and Moses.  The prophets writing in first person during these times agree with the picture sketched in the books of history.

   A second motif found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures is the exodus, Moses, and the rescue from Egypt. Moses is mentioned almost 100 times in  the Hebrew Scripture in fifteen books outside the Pentateuch. In the book of 2 Kings Hezekiah destroyed the bronze snake made by Moses 600 years earlier:

He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (2 Kings 18:4)
   In the 2 Chronicles 30 Hezekiah called for a celebration of the Passover, which had been neglected for some years:

They slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and the Levites were ashamed and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the temple of the Lord. Then they took up their regular positions as prescribed in the Law of Moses the man of God. (verses 15,16)

   Psalm 99:6  refers to Moses and Aaron: "Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name; they called on the Lord and he answered them."

   If we add the many references and allusions to Egypt and the exodus, the total number of references to Moses, the exodus, and the rescue from Egypt create an impressive witness to a real history that began for Israel as a nation at about 1400 B.C.

   This is the coherence and multiple witnesses and careful references we expect from real history. But there is more. There is the witness of the stones - archaeology. That will be the subject of "A People in Search if a History, Pt. 3"


Thursday, May 4, 2017

A People in Search of a History

Science Tells the Story

It would come as something of a shock to be told by Ancestry.com or one of the other family tree websites that you have no family.

   Nope. None. We can trace your family back to 1920, and then it disappears. Yup. No great grandparents. No history. No homeland. That's it.

  That is what the Jews are being told by the New Biblical Scholars: the Jews are a people without a history or a homeland.

   What about the Tanakh? Doesn't it tell our story?

   Nope. It is all fiction.

   And then along came DNA, and the Jewish people came alive again.

   An article in Pub Med, "Extended Y chromosome haplotypes resolve multiple and unique lineages of the Jewish priesthood," published on a US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health website " reports on a study of DNA and Jewish ancestry:

"These results support the hypothesis of a common origin of the CMH in the Near East well before the dispersion of the Jewish people into separate communities, and indicate that the majority of contemporary Jewish priests descend from a limited number of paternal lineages,"

and that
"Dating based on variation associated with five of these six Y-STRs suggested that contemporary CMH chromosomes trace to a common ancestral chromosome 2,100–3,250 years ago (Thomas et al. 1998). This time roughly corresponds to the period between the biblical exodus and the destruction of the first temple."
   Suddenly science has given new life to the Jews.

   That of course, comes as no surprise to the Jews.

   Despite the dire conclusions of the New Biblical Scholars, the Jews have a narrative of their history that extends back to the time indicted by the DNA and earlier. Included in that narrative, which is called by the Jews the Tanakh or the Hebrew Scriptures, are the traditions and laws that defined their lives, the heroes of the nation, descriptions of the wonderful architectural creations like the first temple, the battles they fought, and the wonderful body of literature called the Psalms. And it includes the story of the origin of their nation in an event that is still celebrated yearly by Jews worldwide, Passover.

   It is that story that prompted my quest to explore the historicity of the exodus, the point in history when it all began. As an aficionado of history and a lifelong student of literature, I was interested in whether those disciplines might shed light on the questions arising from the exodus. I determined to trace back the history of the Jews by following the trail of the traditions and the heroes in the biblical narrative using the principles history and literary analysis, backed by the many artifacts that corroborate the narrative.

   It will be a fascinating journey. Wait for Part 2.

Thomas MG, Skorecki K, Ben-Ami H, Parfitt T, Bradman N, Goldstein DB (1998) Origins of Old Testament priests. Nature 394:138–140

Monday, April 10, 2017

Adam, Pt. 4, Sin

Man is a recent arrival. That is what the Bible declares and what anthropology indicates. Now, I suppose some consider that a bold if not erroneous statement. Hasn't man been around for - what? - at least 150,000 years if not close to a million years? Isn't that what anthropologist have been telling us?

   Yes. That is what we find in our text books and on the pages of National Geographic. But anthropologist define man differently than the Bible. If we use the Bible's definition, most anthropologists, I think, would agree that the evidence for modern man, that is man who is fully Homo sapiens sapiens and God-aware, points to a time between 12,000 and 14,000 years ago when such men show up in the archaeological record.

   The earliest evidence for such God-aware men is the astounding recent find of Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey.  (Incidentally Gobekli Tepe is within a very few miles from the place the biblical origin-of-man story of Adam and Eve was located.) Gobekli Tepe is a temple, and though we cannot decipher all the clues to what God or gods were worshiped there, it seems clear that it was designed for spiritual purposes.

   The complex, which is about 20 acres in extent was built by Neolithic men thousands of years before agriculture was developed or animals domesticated - which also incidentally occurred in the same region - and before pottery was made or metal tools created. Gobekli Tepe is the first footprint of modern God-aware men in history. With the massive effort that was required to construct this site and the cooperation required among it builders, it marks the beginning of civilization. The surprise? It was, contrary to what all the text books and experts have said up to the find of Gobekli Tepe, religion that sparked the beginning of civilization not agriculture. Smithsonian

   Man as defined by his DNA, of course, has been around a bit longer. The current theory based on DNA and archaeological finds is that man originated in Africa and began migrating from there 60,000 years ago.The map here displays the migration routes according to National Geographic.

   Several different Homo species have been identified as scientists probed those migrations including Homo neanderthalensis who was identified as living in Europe between 200,000 and 30,000 years ago, and Homo floresiensis in Indonesia. By approximately 30,000 years ago, only early modern man remained.

   What evidence do we have of our early ancestors? One astounding discovery in recent years has been the art  produced by those ancestors in France and Spain. In one region alone, the Lascaux Cave, 2000 painting were discovered. Art experts were amazed by the vividness, realism and liveliness of the images. But the paintings were almost entirely of animals. Where were the humans?

   There were no human figures, yet there were depictions of humans. They were the hand stencils seen here. These stencils have been dated to about 32,000 years ago.

   Since these were discovered, hand stencils have been discovered in  Indonesia, along with images of animals as in France and Spain. These have been recently dated to about 35,000 years ago. As the author, Jo Marchant, writes, "They smash our most common ideas about the origins of art and force us to embrace a far richer picture of how and where our species first awoke."
  Smithsonian Were the hands stencils evidence that man was becoming conscious?

   Notable by their absence, however, in any of the many location where paleolithic cave art has been found are any clear indications of a sense of the spiritual or of religion - until Gobekli Tepe. 

   These vignettes of the lives of our ancestors on the walls of the caves and on the monuments of Gobekli Tepe provide a picture of the development of art and of self-awareness but also provide bookends for the period of time in which modern man as a God-aware man appeared. The period of time between the cave art and Gobekli Tepe is, of course, immense. But these finds in the caves of France and the hills of Turkey provides a range.

   The scientists studying Gobekli Tepe give us a little more help. They guess that the technologies required to build Gobekli Tepe might have taken several thousand years to develop. (Remember, the builders were nomadic Stone Age hunter-gatherers.) With that estimate, we can push back the time of man's appearance to the end of the last ice age in about 14,000 B.C. There and at that time something happened that changed everything for man. There man became fully man as we know him today. He was self-aware and God-aware, body, soul, and spirit.

   That date is very close to the date most Bible scholars would give for creation of Adam. At this point in time and at that location, biblical history and anthropology converge.

   But the cave art and the rock art found in distant places like Africa tell us that something else happened to man. The cave art tells us that man was at home in his world in the paleolithic. The images are almost all of animals, and the images are light and fresh and full of life. Even the animals that might be threatening, such as bulls and bears, are not drawn that way. The horses that dominate the images of the French caves run wild and free. Even the hand stencils give the impression of hands in celebration. They are pictures of Eden.

   That is not the impression we get from the images at Gobekli Tepe. Put the cave art and the sculptures of Gobekli Tepe side by side and the contrast is stark. Nature and the men who made these images are in disharmony. The images of Gobekli Tepe are threatening, even demonic.

   What happened? In the years between the cave art of France and Gobeklit Tepe, what happened? It is here where can turn to the Bible's story of the origin of man. What happened was sin.

   The story in the Bible is as vivid as the art. Man originated in Eden. There nature was in harmony with man and man with nature. There were plants for food and an environment that was pleasing.
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. (Genesis 2:8,9)
   A page later, man is cast out of the garden and nature is unfriendly and uncooperative.
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
   It is what happened in between that tells the story: Adam and Eve made a choice.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.(Genesis 3:6,7)
   Man chose not to avail himself of the life that was offered in the Tree of Life but rather to turn away from God's offer. He chose to make it on his own. The result was Gobekli Tepe. That is our story.

    As fascinating as Gobekli Tepe is and as impressive as it is from the point of view of technology (that technology is described in the Bible in Genesis 4) it is an ugly and oppressive place. Perhaps that is why it was intentionally buried several thousands of years after it was first erected. 

   Gobekli Tepe is our story. It is the history of man and is seen in the religion of Gobekli Tepe, in the civilizations that followed and the religions that they created, and in the world today.

   It is Adam's story. Adam did not fall from perfection or from grace. Grace was what God offered, yes. But Adam did not take what was offered. He made a choice. Like the two roads Jesus spoke of many millennia later, Adam chose what seemed like the best way. He chose to find knowledge and what was good and evil apart from God. But it led to destruction, not only for Adam, for us all. 

   How so? Even if there was a literal, historical Adam, he was but one man.  There were Homo sapiens running all over the place not only in the upper fringes of the Fertile Crescent but everywhere, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia. How can we even think that there was a first man or that his choice became ours?

(If there was not an Adam and if this story is purely made up, it qualifies as the most probing and perceptive story ever told by man. But it is very hard for anyone familiar with the literature of the ancient world to believe it fiction, allegory, yes, fiction, no.) 

    The answer is found in Romans chapter five.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12)
   It is a simple statement with no explanation. None is needed. The truth is self-evident: we all miss the mark. We sin. And because of sin, death reigned or continued to reign - for eternal life was a promise but not a possession of man.  If he was to enjoy life, Adam would have had to have eaten from the Tree of Life, and he had not. (Romans 5:14)

(We can understand that the trees are allegorical. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents the choice to do life on our own without God, in fact, in contrast to the Tree of Life which represents dependence on God, it represents the rejection of God.)  

  This moment in  Eden was the moment when man, a specific man Adam, had the opportunity to decide. But Adam was still only one man. What of all the others?

   Romans tells us that "the many died by the trespass of the one man" (Romans 5:15). That means that every man who had come to God-awareness and was fully man was included in the one literal Adam's sin. Neither sin nor the guilt for sin are passed on via DNA; it was not by bloodline. It was assumed by every man in the same way that every citizen assumes the debt of his nation, even if they did not personally incur the debt.

   That is the same way that grace is passed on to us through Jesus Christ. We did not earn that grace; he did by taking our place and dying for us. But we benefit from that grace when we are joined to him by faith:

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!  Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:17-19)
   The result of Adam's sin was condemnation for all, BUT THE RESULT OF OBEDIENCE OF THE ONE MAN JESUS benefits all people everywhere through all time. The condition was that each man avail himself of the gift of grace by assuming the gift of righteousness by identifying himself as a member of Jesus' kingdom by making him  king and by trusting in him in faith.

   The sin of Adam affected mankind deeply but not hopelessly. Adam had a second chance. We see that in God's clothing Adam and Eve in skins of animals symbolic of forgiveness. All men everywhere and throughout all time have a second chance. Each one of us may turn to God in dependence upon his grace.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Adam, Pt. 3, Genesis

One of the most significant developments in human history was agriculture. It was so significant that it is called the Neolithic Revolution. sensagent   But there is a puzzle that remains unsolved by archaeologists and anthropologists: how is it that agriculture appears across the globe in widely separated and isolated people groups at approximately the same time.

   Wikipedia lists eleven separate regions where agriculture appears in the archaeological  record. Those include both the most well-known, Mesopotamia, as well as the Americas. And the  domestication of plants and animals appears at approximately the same period of time: 12,000 to 10,000 B.C.  Agriculture and National Geographic

   Is the answer to the puzzle the mutation of switching genes allowing for the expression of the genetic traits of modern  man? If so how did the same mutation occur in populations that were long separated by 12,000 B.C.? The current model of human migration from Africa puts those migrations as early as 60,000 years ago using DNA as the means of determining the dates. National Geographic That is almost 40,000 years before agriculture appeared in any of those populations, including the original population in Africa. Yet it did appear in those populations, with the exception of the Australian Aborigines. 

   The other marker of the presence of modern man is religion. It is one of the universals of the human experience and is evident in every culture from as early as man has been man.  Like agriculture, religion appears almost suddenly in widely separated populations from the Middle East to the Americas. It might be detected in the burial practices of early modern man, but it is clearly visible in buildings dedicated to worship, such as those at Gobekli Tepe.
Vulture stone from Gobekli tepe

   The mysteries of Gobekli tepe are yet to be deciphered, but several things seem obvious. 1) Gobekli tepe will turn much of our knowledge about man at the margin between the Stone Age and the period in which civilizations developed on its head. 2) The temple (?) complex is large, 22 acres, and very old, perhaps as old as 12,000 years. 3) It required a technology that no scientist imagined possible that long ago. 4) It reveals a well developed symbolic language and a level of art unexpected by archaeologists among what had been assumed to be nomadic Stone Age people. 5) And it is certainly a marker that man had arrived.

   Both of these markers converge on a particular region, Eden or the Fertile Crescent. This land is described in Genesis 2 as:

the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.  The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.  The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

 The geographical detail is specific and remarkably accurate. The story in which it is found is even more so.

   The story of man begins in Genesis 2:5 with the time, before agriculture when no plants were being cultivated:

Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground,
   It is at that time God created man. But consider what the text says:
"Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" (verse 7).

   The word man is the word in Hebrew adam, and it means here, as it means in most places, mankind. The word shares its root with the word for ground or earth. Mankind is of the earth, first of all. But here in addition to the dust of the earth mankind, according to the narrative, is composed of the spirit (neshamah), and a soul (nephesh) which is translated here in the NIV as "living being." Of those three, animals share at least two. All animals according to the narrative are composed of the dust of the earth, the basic elements coming from the earth. And some animals also have a soul (nephesh).

   Man and all living things originated just as evolution describes; he is an animal. But a body alone is not yet man. A man is a person not merely a body. Here in this origin-of man-narrative, personhood is described as nephesh. The characteristics pf personhood are shared to some degree with some of the higher animals, but in man  Dr.  David L. Anderson of the Mind Project at Illinois State University, describes personhood as  intelligence, free will, self-determination, the ability to make moral judgements, creativity, self-awareness, and consciousness. Illinois State Nepshesh is the thinking, emoting and relational part of man that makes him a person. That is what we can see in the earliest Homo sapiens. It is what defines man as man in most peoples' minds. Man is more than DNA.

   But that is not all. It is only as God gave the homind Homo sapiens  neshamah that he becomes fully man.  What that combination of body, soul, and spirit is able to do that chimps cannot is revealed in the narrative.

   The first thing we see is that man is able to transform his world. "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it" (verse 15). He is capable of growing crops. That implies the intelligence to see the connections between the land and water and the plants.  He understands seeds and cultivation and irrigation. He can plan. And he can make decisions for himself and others about what is good and productive and what is not. No chimp can do that.

   Secondly, man is a God-aware creature. No chimp could make sense out of a command from God. No chimp worships or builds temples or creates religious artifacts. But man does - everywhere. 

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (verses 16,17)
   Third, man is a moral creature. He knows about right and wrong.   

   The capacity to make moral judgment requires the ability to distinguish between right and wrong and the ability to choose. Here in this narrative, Adam and Eve are given a command that implies a choice between a right and a wrong and implies the ability to choose.  Chimps may distinguish between choices that are good or bad for them. But a moral choice is more than that. It is a choice between two things that are abstract concepts. Moral choices go beyond what is immediately and practically good or bad for the individual. They are choices about things that are always right or wrong and right or wrong for everyone. They are about choices that may not be immediately and practically good for he individual.

   The passage suggests two more thing; man is existentially aware of his own mortality. Do chimps know?  And man is aware of his uniqueness. He knows he is not an animal.
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.(verses 19,20)
   So far the Adam and Eve narrative is quite perceptive and accurate about what distinguishes man as man. The passage that follows about woman being made from the rib of Adam and the snake should be read allegorically, as should the two trees. The first is symbolic of the fact that male and female humans are both human. The second identifies the source of temptation as spiritual. The trees are symbolic of the choices before man.

   The point of the narrative so far is that man is a three part being: body, soul and spirit. Body is directly the product of our DNA. Soul, personality, personhood is indirectly an expression of our DNA. But spirit is derived directly from God. It was not inherited nor did it develop gradually.

   Only as all three come together is man truly man.

   And when did that happen? The evidence, both biblical and archaeological, points to a rather recent event.

   But was there in fact, then, a first man? If true human beings are found throughout the world and those populations separated as much as 60,000 years ago, could there be a first true man?   The answer awaits Part 4.