Genesis: The Antediluvian Prequel

For the purpose of this discussion, we are going with a plain text reading of the Book of Genesis.

The first time any sort of permanent record is mentioned in the Bible is with Genesis 5:1 (KJV):  “This is the book of the generations of Adam.”  (“Account” in Young’s Literal Translation, “family records” in the Holman Christian Standard Bible, so the idea it is referring to an actual physically written record or scroll may not be 100% accurate.)

The next time any reference whatsoever to writing or any type of permanent record is in Exodus 17:13-15.

Noah pops up in Genesis 5:29.

So a plain text reading tells us everything in Genesis chapters 1 through 6 is, at best, the way Noah remembered it as it was told to him & he passed along to his kids.

(Noah, for those of you who may have flunked Sunday school, was the guy who rode out the Great Flood with his family while everybody else drowned.)

There are a lot of gaps & glossed over passages in Genesis chaps 1-6.  Big, big hunks of stuff get passed over in a few vague verses, things are described in an off-handed manner with no clear elaboration.

And the things that are covered, well, they’re covered from the POV of a Bronze Age denizen with an extremely limited understanding of geology, geography, geophysics, climatology, biology, genetics, or for that matter much of any science.

Folks, even the Bible is telling us we can’t expect his account to be complete, much less perfect.[1]

And that’s not taking into account that 5 chapters after Noah, the Bible gives us the story of the Tower of Babel & how languages were created to sow confusion.

There’s nothing in that account that indicates any bloodlines/languages were spared the confusion.

So nothing prior to the development of the Hebrew language can be reliably considered to be 100% accurate.  We have no evidence who recorded it, for what purpose, or how it was recorded, much less whether anything was left off and/or overemphasized.

Other than the reference in Genesis 5 (which could refer to an oral history, not necessarily a written one), literacy makes no appearance in the book of Genesis.

It’s only after Moses has led the children of Israel out of Egypt (an extremely literate empire) that any reference to writing is made.

After that point, things get writ down a lot.

In the same chapter of Genesis that the Tower of Babel gets its mention, Abram-soon-to-be-Abraham makes his first appearance in the last in a line of long begats & died verses.

Starting with Abram’s immediate family, however, scrupulous details are kept as to not merely who begat who, but who married who, who died first, etc., etc., and of course, etc.[2]

And though the context of the Bible indicates great care was being taken from Abram on to keep family histories straight, we still have no idea who was keeping track of things, how they were recording the information, or how accurate their accounts are.

Again, not even the Bible claims what is written down in Genesis is the full account.[3]

In fact, the Bible strongly suggests that none of this ever got written down until the time of Moses.

And he brought his own unique perspective to it.

So to my literalist brothers and sisters, you are wrong when you insist the Genesis accounts be regarded as unshakeable fact.

And not merely wrong, embarrassingly wrong.

You don’t lose any Biblical truths by recognizing how historically vague & unreliable the first 10 chapters of Genesis are.

It doesn’t disprove the existence of God.

Or that He created the Universe.

Or that He has a plan for humanity.

All it does is recognize what the Bible says about itself.

It doesn’t force you to double down and embrace cockamamie theories that don’t pass the smell test.

Science does not contradict the Bible.[4]

Science proves the Bible.

But not every Truth in the Bible is also a fact, just as George Washington was the father of his country[5], Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves[6], and the Wright Brothers flew the first heavier-than-air machine[7] are truths but not facts.

1 Timothy 1:4-7 (KJV):

Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.  Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:  From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

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[1]  Noah recounts God’s command for the design of the Ark in a mere 97 words in the KJV.  Contrary to literalists who claim this is a “detailed” account, it’s actually very scant, giving merely gross dimensions, placement of a skylight and door, and a requirement for 3 decks.  We have no idea how long it took Noah & sons the build the Ark & assemble the animals, but you’d think they’d be a little more detailed in all the job entailed, wouldn’t you?  If they’re this skimpy about things they were not only eyewitnesses to but direct participants in, why should their account of Antediluvian events they didn’t experience but only heard about be any more reliable?  Seriously, the story of Noah is an epic tale, and yet it is dismissed in a few scant chapters; compare this to the entirety of Exodus with its wealth of details.

[2]  They had to:  Inheritances were involved.  Consider this Mammon’s first appearance in the Bible.

[3]  The Bible never makes this claim:  The Books of Kings and Chronicles are filled with references to other, now missing books of history, and the Gospel of John famously ends with “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”

[4]  To paraphrase what Maimonides, author of The Guide For The Perplexed, once wrote:  "If science and Torah are misaligned, it is either because science is not understood or the Torah is misinterpreted.  If science has proved a point, then the finding should be accepted and scripture should be interpreted accordingly."

[5] George Washington was instrumental in the founding of the United States of America as an independent nation; he was not the Super-Daddy of sperm donors.

[6]  Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was the beginning of the end of slavery in the U.S., but it freed no actual slaves at the time it was issued.  Indeed, it specifically excluded slaves in Union held territories and the Confederacy was notoriously lax re enforcing it within their borders.

[7]  Orville Wright’s singular accomplishment was to successfully land a heavier-than-air machine after a flight.

Don’t Think I’m Letting You Scientific Smart-Alecs Off Easy

To Quote Joe Walsh