Friday, June 24, 2011
RKIA's Guide to Reading the Bible... part 5
THE REV. KNOW IT ALL’S “GUIDE TO READING THE BIBLE, THAT BIG BOOK ON THE COFFEE TABLE.” Part 5
“KEEPING IT ALL IN THE FAMILY or CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME”
So now I come to the moment, dear Eve, of actually answering your question. Whom did the children of Adam and Eve marry? There are a number of theories.
(Genesis 5:4) “The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters.” Adam and Eve had bunches of kids, of both genders, so we are presented with the most obvious answer, to which I can hear you responding “Yuuuuuck......”
The Jewish Sages are very creative about the whole thing. According to the always useful “32 rules of Rabbi Eliezer”: The particles "et"(direct object marker that has absolutely no translatable meaning”), "gam"(literally “also”), and "af" (“even” and a hundred other possible things), indicate that something not mentioned is included in a given text. The great commentator Rashi looks at the “gam”s, “et”s and “af”s in the story“ of Genesis to mean that Cain had a twin sister and Abel had two twin sisters. If that doesn’t confuse you nothing will (Merci bien, mon ami Pierre!) Isn’t this wonderfully obscure?
Let us look at other possible answers. Perhaps God created spouses for the children of Adam and Eve, but no one I know who espouses this theory because Genesis says that Eve was the mother of all the living. There are some commentators who claim that the children of Adam and Eve married other kinds of beings, but again that would be problematic since Eve is the mother of all the living and what kinds of creatures could they have married? That could really increase the yuck factor.
The other and most usual answer is that they married, you guessed it, their siblings!!! But I thought that wasn’t allowed. It is forbidden in the book of Leviticus, but it is clear that before the Exodus and the law of Moses there were some interesting incidents of sibling marriages, such as Abraham and Sarah, who were half siblings! In Genesis 20:12 we read that Abraham’s wife Sarah is also his half-sister, on his father's side. In the rabbinic literature, Sarah is only considered his niece. (Once again, yuuuuck!)
The whole topic is very disturbing. I will never forget once, when my mother was reading the Bible, and found the story of Lot and his daughters. She called me to ask if I was aware of what was in this book!!! This is my point! The Bible is the great narrative of real people whom God loves. I personally don’t find many of them that appealing. They do some really outrageous things. I can hear you say , “If it was alright for Abraham or Lot, it must be alright for me.” Not so fast. God is always smiting people in the Bible, and if you read the fine print you realize that they deserved a good smiting now and then. The Bible relates stories of dishonesty and violence and other goings on that we won’t mention in a family column. That’s because the Bible really is history about real people. And those real people are sometimes their own worst enemies. The bible points out their foibles, not for our imitation, but for our instruction.
It is interesting to look at modern genetic studies of the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa. They seem to indicate that between all humans now living had common ancestors between 100,00 and 45,000 years ago. This in no way corroborates the story as told in Genesis, but it does agree with some of the important points of Genesis. We are all descended from one man and one woman. Geneticists don’t say this man and this woman necessarily lived at the same time, though the Bible and the Church say they did. Still, this refutes the pseudo science of the racists of the nineteenth century who claimed that there were inferior races of human beings. We are all one race; the human race. I may look pretty odd to you, but I am still your cousin. The Bible taught this long before scientists caught up with the Church.
Another point on which geneticist and the Bible agree, is that we are descended from a remarkably small group of people who live not so very long ago, perhaps as recently as 5000 years ago. “All humans alive today share a surprisingly recent common ancestor, perhaps even within the last 5,000 years, even for people born on different continents.” (Rohde, DL; Olson, S; Chang, JT, Nature, September 2004, "Modeling the recent common ancestry of all living humans") I figure I had better footnote that point.
Do not think for a minute that genetic science is corroborating Bishop Ussher, but my point in referring to genetic research is that Genesis and genetics agree that there must have been some really close family ties, if you catch my drift. Abel and Cain and Seth couldn’t marry the girl next door, because there was no next door. Which theory is right? Scientists are absolutely sure of something until they change their mind upon receiving new information. And then they are absolutely convinced until a new theory comes along. University comes from a very ancient Latin word meaning “Fog bound scholars arguing with each other.” It’s true. I know because I actually taught in a university for a very long time. The Bible is interested in teaching the principles of the Kingdom of God. Science is mostly interested in getting grant money. (I’m only kidding. Scientists are interested in truth. In order to argue with each other, which is their means for arriving at truth, they need buckets of grant money.)
So, carefully analyzing the Scriptural texts and the current scientific data, I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHO THE SONS OF ADAM MARRIED BECAUSE THE HOLY SPIRIT DID NOT DECIDE TO TELL ME EITHER THROUGH THE TEXT OF SCRIPTURE NOR THE TRADITION OF THE FAITH!!!!!
Jesus once said to the disciples, “No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” (Matthew 24:36) Jesus, the Son of God, was content to remain ignorant about certain things because His perfection as the Son of god consisted in trusting and loving His Fatter completely. I however have to know everything right know.
He also said, “I have much to tell you that you cannot bear now.” (John 16:12) Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) was a Dutch woman who helped Jews escape the Nazis during World War II and was eventually imprisoned herself. In 1970, she wrote her autobiography, The Hiding Place, a book that believe is a “must read” for every serious Christian. She tells a story from her childhood that relates to our present problem. When she was a little girl, she would accompany her father, Kaspar, on his trips to the big city when he went to buy supplies for his watch repair business. On one of these train rides, she asked her father what “sex” was. She had heard some older girls discussing it on the playground at school. Her father looked at her and then looked out the window and said nothing. When the train stopped, he asked the little girl to pick up his tool bag. Corrie tried and couldn’t. She said, “Papa it’s too heavy.” Then Kaspar said, “There are some things that are too heavy for you to carry right now. When you are older I will tell you what sex is. Until then you are going to have to trust me.” So it is with our heavenly Father. He wants us to trust Him.
The Holy Spirit also tells us that, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) In other words the Bible doesn’t exist to tell us everything we want to know.
So here is Biblical principle #6:
THE BIBLE DOESN’T EXIST TO TELL US THE FUTURE, OR GIVE US STOCK TIPS OR SATISFY OUR SCIENTIFIC CURIOSITY. IT EXISTS TO EQUIP US WITH THOSE THINGS NECESSARY FOR OUR SALVATION AND REDEMPTION.
Whoever Cain and Abel and Seth and the rest of them married, I am sure that they were lovely brides, though they probably came from a disreputable family: the human family.
Next week: GIVE US THIS DAY OUR WHOLE WHEAT, LOW FAT, GLUTEN FREE BREAD.