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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 on it head much of our knowledge about man at the margin between the Stone Age and the period in which civilizations developed. 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, agriculture and religion, 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. 




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