There has been significant damage done using this book. Herb’s particular knee-jerk response hearing something about Revelation is for his eyes to roll. The book of Revelation Herb argues is not about winning people to following theLamb but to current followers of the Lamb to enable them to be more faithful.
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw . . . John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: (Rev 1:1-4)
Hence, Herb notes that this was written to God’s “servants.”
The chronology of transmission is God gave the revelation to his angle who gave it to John. Did Christ give this to John to predict the future or did Christ give this in order to encourage people who already believe? Herb argues the latter. Christianity in this time period meant to give up your life and face persecution. Nero was the first persecutor of Christianity with others to follow.
Today Christianity is presented as a way to improve your life. However, this was not how it was in the first century. If making a decision to follow Jesus meant giving up your life, would that make things different for you? Andrew gave a powerful testimony of what it means to follow Jesus, it was such a powerful argument that when he went to the chopping block where he would be executed a Roman soldier saw his faith and the Roman soldier said to the judge something like: “if you are going to execute him for following Jesus execute me too because I have become a follower of Jesus.”
There are several options when attacked with persecution 1 to fight 2 to flee or 3 to follow the lamb. Revelation was written to encourage the third option.
The book of revelation was not given to make wild predictions about the future. The book of Revelation was given to help those who heard its words to become more faithful followers of Jesus.
What did it mean to follow Jesus? To follow his example and teachings.
Matthew 4.23—Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their syna-gogues, proclaiming the good news [euangelion] of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
What does “the good news” mean? In society at that time it had a different meaning than for us today. A messenger would carry “the good news” or the eungaleon which meant that a new kingdom was victorious. It is a military term but be careful because the warfare of the lamb is not of this world but is spiritual.
John 18:36 New Revised Standard Version 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
STRONGS NT 3340: μετανοέω “repent” is also a military term in that day–when an officer yelled “repent” they would change direction. “repent” did not mean to “feel sorry” for the direction they were walking to begin with but to change directions.
Luke 4.43—But he said, “I must pro- claim the good news [euangelion] of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
This means “a new kingdom has come to town” you were walking in one direction now walk in another. This is a new way of doing life. And what you are going to find is this new way of doing life is based on a radically different way of seeing God. Jesus hung out with sinners–which meant something different in that day. Today everyone is a sinner but that makes it lose its strength. However, the term “sinner” had been coined by the religious people of that day for people who were living in opposition to the Torah–they were excommunicated or disfellowshipped from the covenant community. Jesus was accused of being friends with the tax collectors and other sinners who were in cohorts with Rome.
Jesus was living radically differently by hanging out with these people. This is what Jesus gives to us–a radical way of seeing God and ourselves through mercy. This idea threatened the religious leaders so much that they ended up crucifying him.
We have a more housebroken Jesus in a our churches today that is more comfortable to us–but this is not what we find in the first century.
Matthew 10.7-8—As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The KINGDOM OF HEAVEN has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have re- ceived, freely give.
The kingdom of heaven is not a kingdom in heaven but rather a kingdom of heaven to earth through Jesus and his followers. We do not see Jesus going around getting people to say a special prayer so that they can go to heaven when they die. He is not trying to promote a plan of getting people to heaven, rather he was bringing heaven to earth. There was not a lot of time spent on talking about people’s eternal destiny but rather he spent time with people making a difference in their lives.
Luke 10.9—Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
Luke 9.6—So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news [euangelion] and healing people everywhere.
I am convinced that Jesus has given us a way to heal the world around us. If Jesus went out telling people to heal the sick there is an emphasis difference between that and many churches today. If we got back to the ethical teachings of Jesus we might have an empowerment to proclaim those ethics. Many people do not feel it is important to get involved in matters of social justice. However, this is different than Jesus who said to go out and bring healing. Jesus used the metaphors of watching seeds sprout and doe rise. The kingdom conquering will not be exciting–it comes gradually.
Matthew 13.31-32—He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the small- est of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
It is something that would remain underground until it surfaces and gradually takes over. How Jesus said to heal our world was through coming under people not through going over people or trying to overpower people but by coming under and doing things subversively–not through force or compulsion but through humble servant love. Kind of like a yeast that causes a lump of doe to gradually rise.
Acts 8.12—But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of THE KINGDOM OF GOD and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Acts 19.8—Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, argu- ing persuasively about THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
Acts 20.25— Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching THE KINGDOM will ever see me again.
Practically overnight during the time of constantine, Christianity went from a persecuted minority to a persecuting majority. We eventually found those bearing the name of Jesus executing heretics, Muslims, Jews, and witches.
Augustine has a lot of good in it but Herb is not a fan. What is in Augustine that is wrong is wrong to such a degree that it radically changed the course of Christianity. Who became marginalized during this? Jesus. The heroes of the church during the fourth century were warriors and there was such a difference that some secular historians like Rodney Stark say that the pre-Constantine and post-Constantine Christianity is a totally different religion.
Emphasis in Christianity changed from the ethical teachings of Jesus to belief in the virgin birth or Resurrection and other doctrines. In the apostles creed it goes from “born of a virgin” to “crucified by Pontius Pilate” with a comma. Is there anything that they skipped over?–The entire life of Jesus and his teachings. Out of the four versions of the Jesus story that we have only two of them mention the virgin birth. What does that say to you? Two of the authors of the Jesus story we have say that you could be a follower of Jesus and not even know about the virgin birth.
People never attack the teachings of Jesus when they attack Christianity–they attack doctrines like the Resurrection because you can’t just have these unique teachings come out of first century without there being a teacher. Herb does not care about the details but about the transformative power of these teachings, the wisdom of them, and that these are the way that the world will be healed. Rather than coming about believing in Jesus through doctrines Herb believes in Jesus through an affinity for his teachings–following Jesus means following his teachings not believing the doctrines. This is context that we will be looking at the book of Revelation in.
Luke 6.20-26—Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
Blessed are those who weep now–not in general–because you will laugh. This is about a radical rearrangement. It is taking society and turning it on its head. Those who would receive the blessing of what Jesus was coming to accomplish are what we would call the underdogs. The people who are benefiting from society at this time–Jesus is saying “woe” to them–not a cry a condemnation–but a cry of lament.
Luke 6.27-36—But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
The reason Herb believes that most people grossly misunderstand the book of Revelation is because they come from the post Constantine school of Christianity. However, if we actually return to the ethical teachings of Jesus as a backdrop to the book of Revelation and what it says you get a radical new understanding of the book and a flavor of what it meant to the very first audience who heard the book.
We have to start with this question: How did the very first audience take the message of John and how did it inspire them to be more faithful followers of Christ and his kingdom? After that other theories will be able to be made of double meanings and allusion to future events–but you have to first understand Revelation in its original context to know how to build off of it.
The lamb is mentioned 28 times in the book of revelation which is a significant number that we will learn about soon. However, for now know that the Lamb is the centerpiece of this book.
All verses are in the NRSV unless otherwise noted. Karel van der Toorn compares the writing of the Bible to the Bible’s description of creation:
According to the first chapter of the Bible, separation and ordering were essential to the act of creation. God did not create the world out of nothing, but he turned chaos into cosmos. As a creator, God edited the world. He followed the modus operandi of a master scribe, whose art consists in the creation of something new out of preexisting elements. God brought order to the disparate elements that he found. The outcome was the world as we know it, not just a haphazard compilation of everything that went on before, but an orderly arrangement of all the elements available. He produced a text we can read and live in.
The scribes that were responsible for the creation of the canonical works of the ancient world, the books of the Bible as much as the classics of the Mesopotamian tradition, were not really authors but editors. Most of the scribes mentioned in the Babylonian Catalogue of Texts and Authors were the editors of the compositions put to their name.
(Page 221 “God in Context: Selected Essays on Society and Religion in the Early Middle East” by Karel van der Toorn)
Using the documentary hypothesis as an analogy Toorn says the Bible describes separating and organizing rather than ex-nihilo creation. Let’s keep this in mind when reading Genesis. Here I present my views on the creation story and attempt to reconcile it with a 13.772 billion-year-old universe and the 4.543 billion-year-old earth. My argument will work with or without evolution and common ancestry being correct. (that’s not my main concern here) It’s beyond the scope of this post to show why I basically accept these calculations. My argument, therefore, will be primarily theological.
For those who view the material in Genesis to be mythological, this will be a silly exercise. I find some of the details in Genesis hard to take in a mythological way, maybe I need to study ancient mythology more. However, from watching Shaye Cohen’s online class even secular Bible scholars have a problem with the non-mythological surface of Genesis 1 since it does not conform to the pattern of other creation myths where conflict results in creation. They need to read between the lines to extract the idea that it is a battle between God and Tiamat and I haven’t found this convincing.
In addition, I know ancient people believed a lot of weird things about the world and it would be pedantic if God magically changed their thinking just so they could make some theological point without misrepresenting an aspect of creation they were basing it on. However, consider the prophecy of Caiaphas:
50 You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, (John 11:15-51)
The relevant point is: it is possible for someone to speak in a way that is inspired even if they do not know the way God intended their words. Therefore, I’m not claiming that all the statements in the Bible were meant to support a later scientific understanding when they were written; just that they are compatible with that understanding due to the ambiguity of language. This may seem like I’m holding too high of a standard to the Bible but my experience has taught me to have respect for the Bible’s general veracity when it is properly interpreted so I thought I’d at least try this interpretation.
I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time arguing against young-earth creationism. However, I will point this out: so many Christians say that belief in a literal Genesis is critical but are in conflict about the meaning of Genesis 1 and many of the scientific facts related to it. Here are some of the church fathers’ views on days being ages: https://ibbarsoum.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/early-church-fathers-on-genesis/ Modern Creationists sometimes dismiss these as non-literal interpretations so I will also quote this:
Over the last four parts of this Today’s New Reasons to Believe series, I have responded to each of Mook’s major arguments.
Part 1. The early church fathers based their understanding of Genesis on Greek and Latin translations, not the original Hebrew.
Part 2. The allegorical interpreters (e. g., Origen and Augustine) did have specific scriptural reasons for rejecting a calendar-day view of Genesis 1. In particular, the creation days could not be solar days if the Sun was not created until the fourth day. Moreover, the seventh creation day is not closed out by the “evening and morning” phrase, so it is considered longer than a 24-hour day.
Part 3. Even the so-called “literalist” fathers often relied on nonliteral modes of interpretation in dealing with the Old Testament, such as typology and numerological association.
Part 4. The cornerstone of Mook’s proof of young-earth creationism in the early church is a widespread belief among the patristics that human history would last exactly 6,000 years. Ironically, this idea was merely a popular human tradition concerned primarily with eschatology—not creation. This model artificially constrained the age of the earth even though the Bible itself does not require it to be so.
There were several early Jewish interpreters that were familiar with Hebrew and agree with me in interpreting Gen 1:2 as the state of the earth at the beginning of God’s creative process. Later on, this confusion with Christians over Genesis continued. Even within a uniform view of Genesis the science among creationists is disputed:
In a presentation at the conference, Wise showed a slide of a fossil sequence that moved from reptile to mammal, with some transitional fossils in between. He veered suddenly from his usual hyperactive mode to contemplative. “It’s a pain in the neck,” he said. “It fits the evolutionary prediction quite well.” Wise and others have come up with various theories explaining how the flood could have produced such perfect order. Wise is refining a theory, for example, that the order reflects how far the animals lived from the shore, so those living farthest from the water show up last in the record. But they haven’t settled on anything yet.
While the young-earth movement is seemingly uncontested in conservative circles, this is a recent phenomenon:
Until well into the twentieth century critics of evolution tended to identify themselves as anti-evolutionists rather than creationists. Three factors help to explain this practice. First, the word already possessed a well-known meaning unrelated to the creation–evolution debate. Since early Christianity theologians had attached ‘creationism’ to the doctrine that God had specially created each human soul – as opposed to the traducianist teaching that God had created only Adam’s soul and that children inherited their souls from their parents. Second, even the most prominent scientific opponents of organic evolution differed widely in their views of origins. Some adopted the biblical view that all organisms had descended from the kinds divinely created in the Garden of Eden and preserved on Noah’s ark. Others, such as the British geologist Charles Lyell (1797–1875), advocated the spontaneous but non-supernatural appearance of species in regional centres or foci of creation. Still others followed the leading American anti-evolutionist, the Harvard zoologist Louis Agassiz (1807–73), in arguing for repeated plenary creations, during which ‘species did not originate in single pairs, but were created in large numbers’. Third, even Bible-believing fundamentalists could not agree on the correct interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis. A majority probably adopted the ruin-and restoration view endorsed by the immensely popular Scofield Reference Bible (1909), which identified two creations (the first ‘in the beginning’, the second associated with the Garden of Eden) and slipped the fossil record into the vast gap between the two events. Another popular reading of Genesis 1, advocated by William Jennings Bryan (1860–1925), the leading anti-evolutionist of the time, held that the days mentioned in Genesis 1 represented immense ages, each corresponding to a section of the geological column or perhaps to a period in the history of the cosmos. Only a handful of those writing against evolution insisted on what later came to be known as young-earth creationism but was then called flood geology: a recent special creation of all kinds in six twenty-four-hour periods and a geologically significant flood at the time of Noah that buried most of the fossils. . . .
In 1935 Price, Clark, Rimmer and Higley joined with a few others to create ‘a united front against the theory of evolution’. The resulting society, the Religion and Science Association, quickly dissolved, however, when the members fell to squabbling about the age of the earth, with Price and Clark supporting flood geology, Rimmer and Higley pushing for the gap theory, and still others arguing for the day–age interpretation. As one frustrated anti-evolutionist observed in the 1930s, fundamentalists were ‘all mixed up between geological ages, Flood geology and ruin, believing all at once, endorsing all at once’. How, he wondered, could evangelical Christians possibly turn the world against evolution if they themselves could not even agree on the meaning of Genesis 1?
The roots of modern creationism run directly back to George McCready Price (1870–1963), an amateur geologist with no formal training. In a book designed to look like a geology textbook, Price (1923) asserted that there was no order to the fossil record. Rejecting the idea of fossil succession, he argued that the succession of organisms that geologists read in the fossil record was really just a mixed-up sampling of communities that lived in different parts of the antediluvian world. He considered the fossil record too incomplete to confidently reconstruct the past, citing the occasional discovery of animals thought to be extinct and known only from fossils. . .
Despite the efforts of Price and his followers, during the first half of the twentieth century, the majority of Christians—and evangelical fundamentalists—continued to endorse attempts to reconcile geology and Genesis. Even prominent anti-evolution crusader Harry Rimmer (1890–1952) acknowledged that Earth was quite ancient and thought the biblical flood was a local affair rather than a global catastrophe. Twentieth-century fundamentalist circles split into young-Earth creationists, who defended a global flood, and old-Earth creationists, who acknowledged geological evidence that we live on an ancient planet but maintained that God fashioned it for eventual human use.
My interpretation is that the events in Genesis don’t make any sense unless viewed from the perspective of the Earth. Just like the Sun setting in the sky is a description that is accurate from the standpoint of the Earth but not from outside–so the creation story in Genesis doesn’t make sense if you view it from a cosmic perspective.
Unitarianism/Modalism and Local Creation
Even the word for “earth” in Hebrew can also be translated as “land” or “ground” so it could be an entirely local creation event as well. Perhaps it’s repairing the garden of Eden, the land of Canaan, or the land around it. The possible idea of a local creation might seem to be ruled out or at least make two creation events necessary from John 1:1-5 and Colossians 1:15-20. However, John 1-3 seems to be talking about the “moral creation” (and was interpreted as such by the Sonicians) https://biblehub.com/commentaries/meyer/john/1.htm
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-3 NRSV)
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20 NRSV)
Here’s some more commentary on these verses that I have found interesting:
The renowned Trinitarian scholar, John Lightfoot, writes:
The word logos then, denoting both “reason” and “speech,” was a philosophical term adopted by Alexandrian Judaism before St. Paul wrote, to express the manifestation of the Unseen God in the creation and government of the World. It included all modes by which God makes Himself known to man. As His reason, it denoted His purpose or design; as His speech, it implied His revelation. Christian teachers, when they adopted this term, exalted and fixed its meaning by attaching to it two precise and definite ideas: (1) “The Word is a Divine Person,” (2) “The Word became incarnate in Jesus Christ.” It is obvious that these two propositions must have altered materially the significance of all the subordinate terms connected with the idea of the logos. 
It is important to note that it was “Christian teachers” who attached the idea of a “divine person” to the word logos. It is certainly true that when the word logos came to be understood as being Jesus Christ, the understanding of John 1:1 was altered substantially. Lightfoot correctly understands that the early meaning of logos concerned reason and speech, not “Jesus Christ.” Norton develops the concept of logos as “reason” and writes:
There is no word in English answering to the Greek word logos, as used here [in John 1:1]. It was employed to denote a mode of conception concerning the Deity, familiar at the time when St. John wrote and intimately blended with the philosophy of his age, but long since obsolete, and so foreign from our habits of thinking that it is not easy for us to conform our minds to its apprehension. The Greek word logos, in one of its primary senses, answered nearly to our word Reason. The logos of God was regarded, not in its strictest sense, as merely the Reason of God; but, under certain aspects, as the Wisdom, the Mind, the Intellect of God (p. 307). . . . The logos, that is, the plan, purpose and wisdom of God, “became flesh” (came into concretion or physical existence) in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15) and His chief emissary, representative and agent. Because Jesus perfectly obeyed the Father, he represents everything that God could communicate about Himself in a human person. As such, Jesus could say, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). The fact that the logos “became” flesh shows that it did not exist that way before. There is no pre-existence for Jesus in this verse other than his figurative “existence” as the plan, purpose or wisdom of God for the salvation of man. The same is true with the “word” in writing. It had no literal pre-existence as a “spirit-book” somewhere in eternity past, but it came into being as God gave the revelation to people and they wrote it down.
Trinitarians use this verse to show that Christ made the world and its contents. However, that is not the case. What we have learned from the study of John 1:1 above will be helpful in properly interpreting this verse. . . .
2. The pronoun in verse 3 can legitimately be translated as “it.” It does not have to be translated as “him,” and it does not have to refer to a “person” in any way. A primary reason why people get the idea that “the Word” is a person is that the pronoun “he” is used with it. The Greek text does, of course, have the masculine pronoun, because like many languages, including Spanish, French, German, Latin, Hebrew, etc., the Greek language assigns a gender to all nouns, and the gender of the pronoun must agree with the gender of the noun. In French, for example, a table is feminine, la table, while a desk is masculine, le bureau, and feminine and masculine pronouns are required to agree with the gender of the noun. In translating from French to English, however, we would never translate “the table, she,” or “the desk, he.” And we would never insist that a table or desk was somehow a person just because it had a masculine or feminine pronoun. We would use the English designation “it” for the table and the desk, in spite of the fact that in the original language the table and desk have a masculine or feminine gender.
God delegated to Christ His authority to create. Ephesians 2:15 refers to Christ creating “one new man” (his Church) out of Jew and Gentile. In pouring out the gift of holy spirit to each believer (Acts 2:33 and 38), the Lord Jesus has created something new in each of them, that is, the “new man,” their new nature (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 4:24).
The Church of the Body of Christ was a brand new entity, created by Christ out of Jew and Gentile. He had to also create the structure and positions that would allow it to function, both in the spiritual world (positions for the angels that would minister to the Church—see Rev. 1:1, “his angel”) and in the physical world (positions and ministries here on earth—see Rom. 12:4-8; Eph. 4:7-11). The Bible describes these physical and spiritual realities by the phrase, “things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible” (1:16).
In addition, if you find your beliefs challenged or feel offended that is intentional. I started this site to filter out people who would be too easily offended to live in a community of diverse views and attract those that could. I don’t believe that different views about creation should cause divisions (see the “about” section of this site for my views about heresy) You should divide over sufficiently bad behavior, not beliefs. I have a friend who actually believes Noah is an alien and has more conservative beliefs about how to act than most other people I know. However, maybe you disagree with this and I’m just being a jerk and trying to destroy good conservative theology. That’s fine, you don’t have to read any of this.
Short Summary of Genesis 1
Creation starts with a state of volcanic winter (also known as nuclear winter) and God starts recreating/repairing the Earth from there.
A massive volcanic eruption 250,000 years ago shot dust and ash into the atmosphere and probably caused a winter like that expected by many scientists to follow a nuclear war, according to New Zealand geologists.
. . . Dust and ash ejected into the atmosphere reflect shortwave radiation from the sun, reducing the amount reaching the Earth’s surface and lowering temperatures.
Scientists are analyzing ancient ocean-floor samples, seeking conclusive proof linking the New Zealand eruption with the cooling.
“Core samples drilled from the Pacific Ocean bed and dated by oxygen isotopes showed there was a cooling of the Earth’s atmosphere immediately after the eruption,” Carter said. “We don’t have final proof yet, but it seems the two could be linked.”
Severe volcanic winter is a situation that is cold, dark, and has accumulated snow on the ground caused by ash in the atmosphere blocking sunlight.
Reading Genesis with this idea: The first day (Sunday) God lets the sunshine through the dark clouds enough so that the day-night cycle is apparent. The second day (Monday) God causes the thick fog to clear away between the clouds and the earth but leaves some of the cloud cover. The third day (Tuesday) God causes the snow to melt that has accumulated on the land and it runs into rivers and oceans and God now can cause plants to grow back. The fourth day (Wednesday) the Sun and the Moon are recreated by God in the sky by clearing away the rest of the cloud cover. Just like the “setting” sun appears to “set” from our perspective: God created the light in the sky from Earth’s perspective but not its literal source. The fifth day God recreates the water creatures and birds. The sixth day God recreates land animals and man. In general, God seems to be creating ecosystems from the ground up.
1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. (Gen 1 NRSV)
The standard evangelical Christian view is that God first created the heavens and the earth as a formless void (chaos) and improved upon that. However, you’ll notice that from the NRSV chaos could have been the previous state when God’s creating started. Some have tried allowing a gap between the first two verses. This is known as “the gap theory.” It was a long-held view before the advent of modern geological science and is a convenient way to try and reconcile vast amounts of geological age with the Bible. However, in addition to the NRSV, Young’s Literal Translation reads like so:
1 In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth — 2 the earth hath existed waste and void, and darkness [is] on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters, (Gen 1:1-2 YLT)
The NRSV and Young’s are widely considered good translations and here we have the possibility of a time period before the first verse. That is, before God was preparing the heaven and the earth. This makes a bit more sense than the gap theory because you would think even God would want people to notice if he left a 13.772 billion year gap in between two verses. Here, the huge time period is not strangely glossed over but is simply not covered.
Also, the language does fit with a state of catastrophe (although I’m not saying this is implied positively). In the definitions of the words used for “waste and void” Gesenius has “waste” as:
for “void” he has:
Compare the following ways the words are used in Jeremiah and Isaiah:
10 Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; no one shall pass through it forever and ever. 11 But the hawk and the hedgehog shall possess it; the owl and the raven shall live in it. He shall stretch the line of confusion (G8414) over it, and the plummet of chaos (G0922) over its nobles. 12 They shall name it No Kingdom There, and all its princes shall be nothing. (Isaiah 34 NRSV emphasis mine)
20 Disaster overtakes disaster, the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are destroyed, my curtains in a moment. 21 How long must I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet? 22 “For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.” 23 I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste (G8414) and void; (G0922) and to the heavens, and they had no light. (Jeremiah 4:20-23 NRSV emphasis mine)
We can see from these contexts that the only time (elsewhere) these Hebrew words are used–they describe destruction and desolation. I infer that there was a similar state at the beginning of Genesis that is being repaired.
I also found something in the Greek of the LXX Genesis account that I want to share. The Apostolic Bible Polyglot translates Gen 1:2 as:
1 In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. 2 But the earth was unseen and unready, and darkness was upon the abyss, and spirit of God bore upon the water. (Gen 1:1-2 ABP emphasis mine)
However, “A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint” states that the “but” should be “and” at the beginning of Genesis 1:2:
δέ+ X 1554-155-259-1620-1298=4887
Gn 1,2; 2,184.108.40.206
connecting part., often it cannot be translated Gn 2,12; and Gn 1,2; but Gn 2,6; rather (after neg.) Wis2,11; introducing an apodosis after hypothetical or temporal protasis 2 Mc 1,34
… μὲν … δὲ … on the one hand … on the other hand … Gn 38,23; δὲ καί but also, but even 2 Mc 12,13;ἔτι δὲ καί and (even) LtJ 40; καὶ … δέ and also, but also Wis 7,3
The word for “was” in “the earth was unseen . . .” in Gen 1:2 is “to be,” or “to exist” and it is in this form:
Tense: Imperfect Voice: Active Mood: Indicative Person: third Number: Singular
εἰμι (εἶναι) + V 1730-1486-1362-1167-1202=6947
to be, to exist Gn 1,7; to be [+pred.] Gn 1,2; to be [+adv.] Jb 9,2; to be occupied with [τινος] 2 Chr 30,17;to have [τινι] Jb 1,12; ἔστι (impers.) it is possible Wis 5,10
Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν I am the one who is, I am the being Ex 3,14; πρὸς ἐμοῦ ἔσται ὁ ἀνήρ μου my husband will be with me or will become attached to me Gn 29,34; ἐσόμεθα τοῦ σῶσαί σε we shall be there to save you2 Sm 10,11; ἐγώ εἰμι see ἐγώ
*Is 4,5 καὶ ἔσται and it shall be-והיה for MT יהוהyhwh, see also Jl 4,11; *Is 16,4 ἔσονται they shall beיהיוfor MT הוי⋄ הוה be
While both the IMPERFECT and AORIST tenses refer to past actions, and so are past tenses, they differ in ASPECT. The AORIST tense always conveys a single, discreet action (i.e. simple aspect). This is the most common tense for referring to action in the past. The IMPERFECT tense always conveys past activity that was more than a single action in some way (i.e. ongoing aspect). Aorist: I walked snapshot of a past action (simple aspect) Imperfect: I was walking/ used to walk video of past action (ongoing aspect) https://ancientgreek.pressbooks.com/chapter/31/
And according to ntgreek.net: http://www.ntgreek.net/lesson21.htm#imperfect with the verb “loosing” in the imperfect it gives the examples of “he, she, it was loosing.” This leads me to believe Genesis 1:2 might be translated more literally: “And the earth was becoming unseen and unready, and darkness was coming upon the abyss, and the spirit of God was bearing upon the water” which would describe the state of the earth when God started his creating. I think the difference implied by the Septuagint is that while God created the heaven and the Earth in a week–the past activity of “waste and void” was a different type of activity not associated with what is being currently described as God’s creation.
As for the difference between “and” and “but” in Gen 1:2–I have trusted the Lexicon rather than the ABP. However, the change to “but” in the ABP may be comparing the creation of God to the original state of the earth. I don’t think it is implying there is a gap of time, just a gap of difference between states.
These ideas would place my way of thinking under interpretation options two or three that Barry L. Bandstra describes here. However, he notes that even with option one where Genesis 1:1 is an independent statement it could be a title or topic statement that would make my interpretation fit with all three possible translations. This fit is: “a feat so impressive I am forced to mention it myself” (as the late great Ricky Jay would have put it)
One of the reasons I am sharing my interpretation is because I find it useful for reconciling geological age with the Bible. However, I also think this interpretation makes much more sense simply given the text. That should become clear to you as we move along.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Gen 1:3-5 NRSV)
To quote myself:
“God said let there be light and there was light” is written as “וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אֹור וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור” you’ll notice that “and there was light” and “let there be light” are written in the same way ” וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור” and ” יְהִי אֹור” except for the vav (meaning “and”) and the nikkud (nikkud weren’t added till later). How can this be? Because of the vav conversive which changes the tense of the statement, so they can be written the same way even though the tenses are different. However, the vav does not force this to be the case all the time. Therefore, this may be conveying “it happened exactly as God said it would” through the syntax.
This is the first day and the astute reader will note that the sun is not created till later. Some say that “light” itself did not exist up till this point. There have been many attempts to connect this verse with The Big Bang. This is from a Wall Street Journal article:
“The press has dubbed the Higgs boson the “God particle,” a nickname that makes many physicists cringe. But there is some logic to it. According to the Bible, God set the universe into motion as he proclaimed “Let there be light!” In physics, the universe started off with a cosmic explosion, the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago, which sent the stars and galaxies hurtling in all directions.”
However, this does violence to the context. If you read the text you are observing the events in Genesis from the Earth’s perspective rather than from some cosmic perspective: obviously all the light in the universe isn’t separated from all the dark in the universe, neither are day and night cycles established on every planet. It’s just that the day is separated from the night on Earth. This implies that there was a preexisting day-night cycle that had been scrambled and is now set right: “the first day” is described as being the evening and morning that this separation resulted from. The Hebrew word used for “light” here Gesenius says is specifically used for diffuse light as in the daytime and not for light coming from a discrete luminary object. Obviously, daytime diffuse light is from the sun which is a luminary (as Gesenius notes) but there’s a difference between looking at the day and looking directly into the Sun:
6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. (Gen 1:6-8 NRSV)
Here the NRSV is translating “rakiya” in Hebrew as “dome.” Other translations have “firmament.” If this refers to the whole sky we have a inaccuracy–there isn’t water sitting above the sky. However, did the Hebrews know this? Gesenius says they didn’t and that they believed there was a “heavenly ocean” over the firmament:
I have my doubts that the Bible is expressing this idea of the heavenly ocean. God just calls the firmament “sky” in Gen 1:8. “God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.” The word sky certainly has a large range of meanings: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H8064&t=KJV However, what I want to point out is that an Earthly perspective makes more sense here as well. For both the word “dome” or “firmament”
And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome H7549 of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, (Gen 1:14)
And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome H7549 of the sky.” (Gen 1:20)
and the word “sky” or “heavens:”
And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky H8064 to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, (Gen 1:14)
And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky. H8064 ” (Gen 1:20)
Thus the heavens H8064 and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. (Gen 2:1)
the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens H8064 were closed, the rain from the heavens H8064 was restrained, (Gen 8:2)
He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven H8064 and earth; (Gen 14:19)
The dome or firmament holds both fowls and stars and is also called by the same Hebrew word as the word for “sky.” While the word for “sky” or “heavens” also has the sun, stars, and birds in them and regular “rain” (which is what that Hebrew word means in Gen 8:2) “Heavens” is also paired with “earth” to just mean “everything.” This only makes sense if you look at “heavens” and “firmament” from an earthly perspective: anything high above you, hence “sky.” Clouds, rain, birds, and stars are all in the nebulous term “sky” and all are above the observer here in Genesis. If that’s not the perspective of the observer nothing makes sense: you have birds flying around the sun and the moon and stars hanging out in the clouds.
We don’t see the same syntax that God uses in Gen 1:3-5 to say that everything happened exactly as God said but this might still be implied with “and it was so.” However, I think not. Clouds don’t follow orders too well, there’s still going to be fog in the future, just not consistently. Notice that on Monday, God calls nothing good (unlike the rest of the days), this is why you never tell someone at work how awesome your day is on Monday–they will hate you. On a more serious note, I think some Rabbis say he doesn’t call it good because he isn’t finished with the clouds yet and this makes sense. Here God is getting rid of or moving a lot of water vapor in between the earth and the clouds. You can find historical similarities to this situation described in the following:
In the summer of A.D. 536, a mysterious cloud appeared over the Mediterranean basin. “The sun gave forth its light without brightness,” wrote the Byzantine historian Procopius, “and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear.” In the wake of the cloud’s appearance, local climate cooled for more than a decade. Crops failed, and there was widespread famine. From 541 to 542, a pandemic known as the Plague of Justinian swept through the Eastern Roman Empire.
When a volcano erupts, it spews sulfur particles called aerosols into the air, where they can persist for two to three years. These aerosols block out some of the sun’s incoming radiation, causing cooling. How much light gets blocked and how long the effect lasts depends on the location of the volcano and the magnitude of the eruption, as well as other variables in Earth’s natural climate-control system.
. . .
Scientists had long suspected that the cause of all this misery might be a volcanic eruption, probably from Ilopango in El Salvador, which filled Earth’s atmosphere with ash. But now researchers say there were two eruptions—one in 535 or 536 in the northern hemisphere and another in 539 or 540 in the tropics—that kept temperatures in the north cool until 550.
The first eruption was not discovered until around 2008 as far as I have searched. The fall of Constantinople was also preceded by a volcanic eruption (Kuwae erupted from 1452–1453), and then a great deal of fog:
On May 22, 1453, the moon, symbol of Constantinople, rose in dark eclipse, fulfilling a prophecy on the city’s demise. Four days later, the whole city was blotted out by a thick fog, a condition unknown in that part of the world in May. When the fog lifted that evening, “flames engulfed the dome of the Hagia Sophia, and lights, too, could be seen from the walls, glimmering in the distant countryside far behind the Turkish camp (to the west),”. This was interpreted by some as the Holy Spirit departing from the Cathedral.
Also, the effects of the eruption of Laki (a volcanic fissure) was recorded by Gilbert White:
The summer of the year 1783 was an amazing and portentous one, and full of horrible phenomena; for besides the alarming meteors and tremendous thunder‐storms that affrighted and distressed the different counties of this kingdom, the peculiar haze, or smokey fog, that prevailed for many weeks in this island, and in every part of Europe, and even beyond its limits, was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the memory of man. By my journal I find that I has notice this strange occurrence from June 23 to July 20 inclusive, during which period the wind varied to every quarter without making any alteration in the air.
Volcanoes typically create two types of particles, big primary particles that quickly fall to the troposphere, the lowest portion of Earth’s atmosphere, and smaller secondary particles, mostly composed of sulfuric acid, that react chemically with other molecules in the atmosphere and which are responsible for both local and global precipitation changes.
These secondary particles can in turn both help form and seed clouds, changing precipitation levels over large areas.
The underestimation of the “formation rate of new secondary particles in volcanic plumes by seven to eight orders of magnitude” might lead to an underestimation of the ability of formations to contribute to the creation of low-level clouds, they write in their paper in this week’s edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It is possible that volcanic eruptions and other volcanic activities that release sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere may have a larger effect on climate than previously understood, they write.
The underestimation of the formation rate of new secondary particles in volcanic plumes by seven to eight orders of magnitude when performed from calculations based on this nucleation scheme could lead to an underestimation of the CCN and the subsequent potential formation of low-level clouds. As a consequence, such results may help to revisit nucleation schemes implemented in all past simulations of the impact of volcanic eruptions on climate.
There are similar things that happened much further back. For example, some scientists say that the climate effects of a volcanic eruption reduced the global human population to one group of 10,000 individuals 74,000 years ago. (see Journey of mankind here)
Anyways, we see that events like volcanic eruptions can cause low clouds, fog, and rain, and that their particles can seed clouds (presumably by causing water to form on them). The high cloud cover and low fog is a good match for the scrambled day-night cycle in Gen 1:3-5. Here on Monday he partially fixes that by removing most of the low fog.
9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. (Gen 1:9-13)
So far everything has happened exactly as God said or maybe is implied by “and it was so.” Here, we see “and it was so” followed by the description of what happened which is a bit of a break in the pattern so far. Here are the relevant parts where you can see the Hebrew that describes what happened is a bit different than what God commanded:
`Let the earth yield tender grass, herb sowing seed, fruit-tree (whose seed [is] in itself) making fruit after its kind, on the earth:’ ( Gen 1:11 YLT)
So does this imply living things behave randomly in certain ways like clouds? Maybe, possibly adaption is implied. One day is certainly too quick for adaption to happen so this is a bit of reading into things. I’ve even heard this used to argue that evolution is implied in the Bible.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. (Gen 1:14-19)
We’ve already discussed the issue with the day-night cycle coming before the Sun. Here again, we need to look at this from the perspective of Earth and things start making sense. Obviously, the same part of the sky isn’t used to hold the clouds that is used to hold the Sun and there is no water above the Sun like you might literally read previously: “So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome . . . God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.” (Gen 1:7-8)
For in six days the Lord made H6213 heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. (Ex 20:11)
In the beginning when God created H1254 the heavens and the earth, (Gen 1:1)
However, it possibly is talking about separate aspects of creation that are both present in Genesis 1. That is, God shaped old things to create new things.
20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. (Gen 1:20-23)
Maybe now since there is enough light, algae and plankton can start growing again and the ecosystems in the water can be revived. I’m not a biologist and I don’t know for sure if this works, but the pattern is that God seems to build up things lower down on the food chain first.
24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Gen 1:24-31)
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. (Gen 2:1-3)
And now we have the sabbath established. That’s the end of the first creation story but certainly not the end of the issues here. There’s a lot of other issues with this interpretation from other parts of the Bible and I’ll have to answer those next.
1. From the Beginning of Creation, God Made them Male and Female
Here I’ll respond to some possible issues with this interpretation.
In Mark 10:6 we have the clearest (but not the only) statement showing that Jesus was a young-earth creationist. He states that Adam and Eve were at the beginning of creation, not billions of years after the beginning, as would be the case if the universe was really billions of years old. So, if Jesus was a young-earth creationist, then how can His faithful followers have any other view?
So the trick is to ask the question: the beginning of what? If Genesis is a recreation then he’s referring to Genesis as the beginning of God’s recorded creation but he may have thought there was at least a state of chaos before that if not more.
2. Adam The First Man
Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45)
So this on the surface doesn’t pose a problem for the theory but it does raise another question: were Adam and Eve the first people? In modern times there is an issue with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Founder_effect but did genetics operate the same way at that time? It’s possible it didn’t or that God sustained the population through miraculous means but I have another issue here.
7 He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. 8 He is mindful of his covenant forever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, 9 the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, 10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, 11 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.” (Psalm 105:7-11)
God seems to say that the rules in his covenant are forever and we see a lot of evidence that the laws of the Torah were indeed observed before Sinai. Indeed the promises given to Abraham are really the continuation of messianic promises given to Eve and passed down through Noah. Hence, the laws against incest may apply:
Leviticus 18:6–11 and Leviticus 20:11–21, Deuteronomy 27:20–23, Deuteronomy 22:30
I’m not saying they were always obeyed, I just don’t think God would have put mankind in a position where they would have no choice but to break his rules. Especially with the strong language Leviticus uses it is hard for me to believe that incest would have been ok at a different time if indeed God does not change:
26 But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and commit none of these abominations, either the citizen or the alien who resides among you 27 (for the inhabitants of the land, who were before you, committed all of these abominations, and the land became defiled); 28 otherwise the land will vomit you out for defiling it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29 For whoever commits any of these abominations shall be cut off from their people. 30 So keep my charge not to commit any of these abominations that were done before you, and not to defile yourselves by them: I am the Lord your God. (Lev 18:26-30)
As we will see, after Adam’s failure to fulfill God’s mandate, God raises up other Adam-like figures to whom his commission is passed on. We will find that some changes in the commission occur as a result of sin entering into the world. Adam’s descendants, like him, however, will fail. Failure will continue until there arises a “Last Adam” who will finally fulfill the commission on behalf of humanity.
So 1 Corinthians 15:45 isn’t saying Adam was the first man the same way Jesus wasn’t the last man (Adam just means “man” in Hebrew) to live on earth in a literal sense but Adam was the first man in the context of the priesthood of man. The fact that Adam is being used as a representative or priest for mankind is more evident when you look at the context:
42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:42-52)
It is contrasting the physical with the spiritual and compares the “first man” (those who are physical and don’t walk in Christ) to the “second man” (those that aren’t just physical and do). “First” here is being used as the first “type of man” not the first man to physically exist just as Jesus was not the second or last man to physically exist. Indeed the quote “The first man Adam became a living being” is not to be found exactly in Genesis 2:7 because Paul has added “first” and “man.” His meaning is rather “the physical man Adam became a living being” which then he uses in contrast with the Christ who makes us the spiritual man. Adam was not the first person due to the incompatibility incest has with God’s laws. Indeed something may be posed to fill in these cryptic passages:
3. Cain The Marked Wanderer
10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. 17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and named it Enoch after his son Enoch. (Gen 4:10-17)
Cain is said to become a wanderer and fugitive but he settles down and founds a city? Who’s his wife? One of the sisters of the brother he just murdered? It seems strange that if he married his sister there is no explanation of how he accomplished this given the strain this would put on the family. Cain says “I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me” he doesn’t say his family may kill him. If indeed only his family is on the earth then why couldn’t God just tell them or even Adam (who he has talked to before) not to kill Cain?
Cain assumes he will be wandering but if only his small family is on the earth then why can’t he just get away from them? From this (and God not telling off Cain’s family), I say that the reason Cain would be killed by anyone is that he has alienated himself from his family protection and that the tribal groups of that time were violent towards outsiders. However, who were these other people? God marks Cain and this assumes there are a whole bunch of people already who don’t know who Cain is or that Cain will be avenged.
No one knows what the mark of Cain is or why he was a wanderer that built cities. So I guess I’ll throw in my opinion and quote Josephus: it’s the mark of the state and the wandering is Cain’s constant need to exploit new people with violence (imperialism) since he can no longer provide for himself through farming and does not want to be a nomad. Josephus seems to hint at something like this:
AND WHEN Cain had travelled over many countries, he, with his wife, built a city named Nod, which is a place so called, and there he settled his abode; where also he had children. However, he did not accept of his punishment in order to amendment, but to increase his wickedness; for he only aimed to procure everything that was for his own bodily pleasure, though it obliged him to be injurious to his neighbours. He augmented his household substance with much wealth by rapine and violence; he excited his acquaintance to procure pleasures and spoils of robbery, and became a great leader of men into wicked courses. He also introduced a change in that way of simplicity wherein men lived before, and was the author of measures and weights. And whereas they lived innocently and generously while they knew nothing of such arts, he changed the world into cunning craftiness. He first of all set boundaries about lands; he built a city, and fortified it with walls, and he compelled his family to come together to it; and called that city Enoch, after the name of his eldest son Enoch (CHAPTER II. Book 1)
From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, (Acts 17:26)
“ancestor” is literally “blood”
He made also of one blood every nation of men, to dwell upon all the face of the earth — having ordained times before appointed, and the bounds of their dwellings — (Acts 17:26 YLT)
So if my theory is that there were other people does this disprove it? Actually, this verse–read literally–doesn’t contradict the fact of a common ancestor for all humans which is theorized also by science. However, if this is true you can’t just keep pushing back the incest problem forever. God has to create a population of people before (or soon after) the catastrophe in Gen 1 or mankind would have to not be mankind at some point in the past (which is what modern evolutionary theory says). However, what if it is referring to Adamic ancestry of all nations? That would put a dent in the idea that there were other people around at the time although not necessarily disprove it (since there could still be one common ancestor before that) Interestingly enough since God created two separate people: Adam and Eve, they wouldn’t have literally had “one blood” which is why I think it is interesting that “blood” is never used elsewhere in the ABP as a mark of ancestry. “A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint” does mention Numbers 35:11:
αἷμα,-ατος+ N3N 156-69-91-36-49=401 Gn 4,10.11; 9,4.5.6(bis) blood Ex 12,7; anything like blood, wine Gn 49,11; blood relationship, kin Nm 35,11; blood, life Ez 16,36; αἵματα bloodshed, murder 1 Sm 25,33 κρίνω αὐτὸν θανάτῳ και αἵματι I punish him with death and bloodshed Ez 38,22; ἀνὴρ αἱμάτων cruel man 2 Sm 16,7; τὸ αἷμά σου ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλήν σου you are guilty for the death of sb 2 Sm 1,16; αἷμα ἀναίτιον innocent blood Sus 62; ὁ ἐκχέων αἷμα ἀνθρώπου ἀντὶ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ ἐκχυθήσεται he that sheds human blood, instead of that blood shall his own be shed Gn 9,6; πηγὴ αἵματος fountain of blood, menstrual flow Lv 12,7; ῥύσις αἵματος menstrual flow Lv 15,25 *Ez 24,17 αἵματος blood?-דם for MT דם◊ דמם silence?; *Ez 32,5 ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματός σου with your bloodדמך/מ for MT רמותיך) with) your rubble? Cf. ENGEL 1985, 131; HARL 1986a, 61; HARLÉ 1988, 34; LE BOULLUEC 1989, 45; →NIDNTT; TWNT
A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint
However, if you go and look at the verse Num 35:12 (which is the verse they mean in the standard numbering) you’ll see no hint of this idea in the ABP: https://studybible.info/interlinear/Numbers%2035:12 “A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint” seems to get this from an older version of the Septuagint like this one here: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/04-num-nets.pdf which reads:
And the cities shall be for you places of refuge from one doing the relative’s blood duty, and the one that commits murder will not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment (Num 35:11)
This is used in a totally different context (I would read “blood” as “revenge” here not as “family”) and seems to be a variant or translation issue which leaves some uncertainty. Neither is “blood” used in the new testament as a mark of ancestry. It is only used in the classics and in Acts 17:26 according to Thayer’s (John 1:13 uses it as a mark of human rather than divine origin “flesh and blood”)
c. Since the first germs of animal life are thought to be in the blood (Wis. 7:2; Eustathius ad Iliad 6, 211 (ii. 104, 2) τὸ δὲ αἵματος ἀντὶ τοῦ σπέρματός φασιν οἱ σοφοὶ, ὡς τοῦ σπέρματος ὕλην τὸ αἷμα ἔχοντος), the word serves to denote generation and origin (in the classics also): John 1:13 (on the plural cf. Winer’s Grammar, 177 (166)); Acts 17:26 [R G].
Blood is symbolic of life, so maybe it is saying we all have the same kind of life from God, maybe even it is talking about the blood of God’s life-giving covenant which is open to all nations:
1. b. As it was anciently believed that the blood is the seat of the life (Leviticus 17:11; [cf. Delitzsch, Biblical Psychol. pp. 238-247 (English translation, p. 281ff)]), the phrase σὰρξ κ. αἷμα (וְדָם בָּשָׂר, a common phrase in rabbinical writers), or in inverse order αἷμα κ. σάρξ, denotes man’s living body compounded of flesh and blood, 1 Corinthians 15:50; Hebrews 2:14, and so hints at the contrast between man and God (or even the more exalted creatures, Ephesians 6:12) as to suggest his feebleness, Ephesians 6:12 (Sir. 14:18), which is conspicuous as respects the knowledge of divine things, Galatians 1:16; Matthew 16:17.
b. It is used specially of the blood of sacrificial victims having a purifying or expiating power (Leviticus 17:11): Hebrews 9:7, 12f, 18-22, 25; Hebrews 10:4; Hebrews 11:28; Hebrews 13:11.
c. Frequent mention is made in the N. T. of the blood of Christ (αἷμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 1 Corinthians 10:16; τοῦ κυρίου, 1 Corinthians 11:27; τοῦ ἀρνίου, Revelation 7:14; Revelation 12:11, cf. Revelation 19:13) shed on the cross (αἷ. τοῦ σταυροῦ, Colossians 1:20) for the salvation of many, Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24, cf. Luke 22:20; the pledge of redemption, Ephesians 1:7 (ἀπολύτρωσις διὰ τοῦ αἵ. αὐτοῦ; so too in Colossians 1:14 Rec.); 1 Peter 1:19 (see ἀγοράζω, 2 b.); having expiatory efficacy, Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:12; by which believers are purified and are cleansed from the guilt of sin, Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 12:24; [Hebrews 13:12]; 1 John 1:7 (cf. 1 John 5:6, 8); Revelation 1:5; Revelation 7:14; 1 Peter 1:2; are rendered acceptable to God, Romans 5:9, and find access into the heavenly sanctuary, Hebrews 10:19; by which the Gentiles are brought to God and the blessings of his kingdom, Ephesians 2:13, and in general all rational beings on earth and in heaven are reconciled to God, Colossians 1:20; with which Christ purchased for himself the church, Acts 20:28, and gathered it for God, Revelation 5:9. Moreover, since Christ’s dying blood served to establish new religious institutions and a new relationship between men and God, it is likened also to a federative or covenant sacrifice: τό αἷμα τῆς διαθήκης, the blood by the shedding of which the covenant should be ratified, Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24, or has been ratified, Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 13:20 (cf. Hebrews 9:20); add, 1 Corinthians 11:25; Luke 22:20 [WH reject this passage] (in both which the meaning is, ‘this cup containing wine, an emblem of blood, is rendered by the shedding of my blood an emblem of the new covenant’), 1 Corinthians 11:27; (cf. Cicero, pro Sestio 10, 24 foedus sanguine meo ictum sanciri, Livy 23, 8 sanguine Hannibalis sanciam Romanum foedus). πίνειν τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ (i. e. of Christ), to appropriate the saving results of Christ’s death, John 6:53f, 56. [Westcott, Epistles of John, p. 34f.]
Indeed the next verse speaks of God being near to all nations. It then speaks of God being the source of life:
26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.
28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,
‘For we too are his offspring.’
29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. (Acts 17:26-27)
The Bible verse that Paul might allude to is actually talking about Israel not all of mankind which seems to imply a chosen relationship but not a literal birthing:
Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. (Isaiah 1:2)
Paul’s quotation of Greek literature is probably from here which seems to imply not a literal son-ship but a dependency or a close relationship. (I’ve never heard of Zeus birthing all mortals, only of his occasional flings with them)
(1)“From Zeus begin; never let us leave His name unloved. With Him, with Zeus, are filled All paths we tread, and all the marts of men; Filled, too, the sea, and every creek and bay; And all in all things need we help of Zeus, For we too are his offspring.” —Aratus, Phænom. 1–5.
(2)“Most glorious of immortals, many-named, Almighty and for ever, thee, O Zeus, Sovran o’er Nature, guiding with thy hand All things that are, we greet with praises. Thee ’Tis meet that mortals call with one accord, For we thine offspring are, and we alone Of all that live and move upon this earth, Receive the gift of imitative speech.” —Cleanthes, Hymn to Zeus.
Nevertheless, even if we look at Luke 3:38 which says in the genealogy “son of Adam, son of God” we must remember that God did not literally give birth to Adam but formed him out of the dust. An apt way of translating “son” would be “came from” or “image of.”
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; (Colossians 1:15 NRSV)
All this is to say even if “blood” does mean “ancestor” and the implied ancestry is God through Adam, there are several other ways this can be taken besides a literal descendancy from Adam by all mankind.
5. The Flood
If there’s a problem with incest before the flood then what about after the flood? I won’t go into detail why the flood was local I will instead refer you to this: https://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/localflood.html
Josephus says that some people survived the flood:
Now all the writers of Barbarian Histories make mention of this flood, and of this Ark: among whom is Berosus the Chaldean. For when he is describing the circumstances of the flood, he goes on thus: “It is said there is still some part of this ship in Armenia, at the mountain of the Cordyæans; and that some people carry off pieces of the bitumen: which they take away, and use chiefly as amulets, for the averting of mischiefs.” Hieronymus the Egyptian also, who wrote the Phenician Antiquities; and Mnaseas, and a great many more make mention of the same. Nay Nicolaus of Damascus, in his ninety sixth Book, hath a particular relation about them: where he speaks thus: “There is a great mountain in Armenia, over Minyas, called Baris: upon which it is reported that many who fled at the time of the deluge were saved: and that one who was carried in an Ark, came on shore upon the top of it; and that the remains of the timber were a great while preserved: this might be the man about whom Moses, the Legislator of the Jews, wrote.”
κόσμος,-ου+ N2M 5-2-17-5-43=72 Gn 2,1; Ex 33,5.6; Dt 4,19; 17,3 world, universe Prv 17,6a; world, earth 2 Mc 3,12; world, mankind Wis 2,24; ornament, decoration Ex 33,5; honour, delight Prv 28,17a *Gn 2,1 ὁ κόσμος ornamentation-◊צבה or-צבי for MT ◊צבא host, army, see also Dt 4,19, 17,3, Is 24,21, 40,26, Sir 50,19; *2 Sm 1,24 μετὰ κόσμου ὑμῶν with your ornaments-עם־עדיכן for MT עם־עדנים with luxury, with ornaments Cf. DOGNIEZ 1992, 138; HARL 1986a, 98; SCHMITT 1974, 152; →MM; NIDNTT; TWNT
6. The World From Water
4 For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly; (2 Peter 2:4-5)
3 First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!” 5 They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water, 6 through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless. (2 Peter 3:3-7 NRSV)
We have already talked about “kosmos” which the word for “world” in 2 Peter 2: 5. In verse 2 Peter 3:5 “out of water” is not difficult to interpret. Dry land indeed emerged from “out of” water in Genesis 1 because the water ran off the land. However, what does “by means of water” mean? Was the Earth literally made of water? In the very next verse “through” is the same word and it precedes a genitive just as the one in verse 6. In addition 1 Peter 4:11 uses the same word preceding a genitive “through Jesus Christ”
Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11)
In 2 Peter 2:6 “through” is not talking about making something out of something but it is “through” in the sense of “through this process” and in 1 Peter 4:11 the things being glorified in God are not created out of Jesus Christ, but it is “by means of” Jesus Christ. So in this sense the world was created with the use of water but it probably wasn’t literally created from water. In addition, Dodson has this for the Genetive:
διά through, on account of (a) gen: through, throughout, by the instrumentality of, (b) acc: through, on account of, by reason of, for the sake of, because of.
Some people may object to these theories from the idea that physical death could not have come before the fall. However, there is a serious problem in Genesis with taking Adam’s sin as resulting in physical death:
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Gen 2:17)
However, they were separated from the tree of life and from God walking in the garden. So could this be talking about spiritual death? (separation from God) The fact that they had the tree of life in the garden in the first place implies that they could have died if they did not continue to eat from the tree of life. This means they were created mortal and hence there was at least a potential for death before the fall.
In addition, Genesis 2:9 implies they were supposed to subdue the animals which at least fits with violence before the fall–enough violence would seem to necessarily lead to death:
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
This fits with the idea of a garden in the ancient near east:
. . . Genesis 2 places Adam and Eve in a garden; in the ancient near east, this was a walled enclosure, protecting the inhabitants from the wilderness and dangerous animals beyond.
In addition, the flaming sword and the angels are only placed on the east of the garden–maybe only at once place–the gate or entrance:
He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)
Implied is that the garden was enclosed–as customary in the ancient near east. This enclosure was present from the beginning implying a need to protect Adam and Eve from some of the animals.
One place that is argued to mean that death didn’t happen before the fall is Romans 5:12. However, Romans 5:12 seems to refer to humans in context and the word “kosmos” in Greek can indeed refer to a “host” rather than the earth itself. https://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G2889 In addition in Romans 5:21 it contrasts this “death” with “eternal life” not the absence of death entirely–hence death here is spiritualized:
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. . . 20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21)
I have presented a theory which attempts to reconcile the Bible with modern science on the question of creation and the flood. All the main arguments I have made here have been from scripture or related context such as Josephus. I’ve presented a theory of Genesis that explains the awkward timeline of the sun being “created” after the day-night cycle starts in terms of an earthly viewpoint combined with a volcanic winter. I’ve also dealt with major challenges to the Bible from genetics but argued for them totally based on the laws against incest. I have also argued for physical death before the fall based on the text of Genesis. The thing left to explore in this reconciliation is whether the Bible can be reconciled with science based on the timeline presented. There are some challenges already from Egyptian chronology but I am curious if this chronology is revised would we still see issues with the timeline in Genesis compared to other records?
All verses are in the NRSV unless otherwise noted. When I first started writing this I thought I had to admit that the Bible did not explicitly prohibit rape of an unmarried unbetrothed woman. However, I have now realized that the Bible does explicitly prohibit rape in Ex 21:16 and Deut 24:7 because it prohibits the capture/seizure of people which is part of rape. I argue that Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is connected with Exodus 22:16-17 and is about seduction and not rape but I don’t have time to make that argument here, instead see this article: https://cbmw.org/topics/sex/did-old-testament-law-force-a-woman-to-marry-her-rapist
I do think rape is explicitly against other laws–for instance it would at least be covered under the laws concerning damages to people and certainly against the law to love your neighbor. However, I will argue that just because it is not explicitly named that the Bible’s attitude should not be taken as lax towards it. In fact, I will argue that under the biblical law that rape requires the death penalty.
So why isn’t rape itself explicitly mentioned in the law? For a few reasons I suspect
1 The first one is pretty obvious: it was covered directly by other laws against capturing and indirectly by laws against slavery which came almost immediately in the giving of the law.
There was no reason to add specific cases to a good comprehensive general one. This comes by observing that the Tanakh is very much against capturing and slavery:
Whoever kidnaps h1589 a person, whether that person has been sold or is still held in possession, shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:16)
If someone is caught kidnaping h1589 another Israelite, enslaving or selling the Israelite, then that kidnaper shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 24:7)
Notice it uses the same Hebrew word for “steal” in the 10 commandments. There are some translations that have “and” in-between each case here rather than “or” which causes some to argue that it only prohibited the combination of them: kidnapping, selling, and found in their possession. However, in YLT this seems to be the result of translating the vav literally and consistently as “and” and is not a mandate for how to understand the vav in that particular context. Keil and Delitzsch correct the misconception that vavs can only mean “and” and note the severity with which this capturing was treated:
Maltreatment of a father and mother through striking (Exodus 21:15), man-stealing (Exodus 21:16), and cursing parents (Exodus 21:17, cf. Leviticus 20:9), were all to be placed on a par with murder, and punished in the same way. By the “smiting” (הכּה) of parents we are not to understand smiting to death, for in that case ומת would be added as in Exodus 21:12, but any kind of maltreatment. . . . Man-stealing was also no less a crime, being a sin against the dignity of man, and a violation of the image of God. For אישׁ “a man,” we find in Deuteronomy 24:7, נפשׁ “a soul,” by which both man and woman are intended, and the still more definite limitation, “of his brethren of the children of Israel.” The crime remained the same whether he had sold him (the stolen man), or whether he was still found in his hand. (For ו – ו as a sign of an alternative in the linking together of short sentences, see Proverbs 29:9, and Ewald, 361.) This is the rendering adopted by most of the earlier translators, and we get no intelligent sense if we divide the clauses thus: “and sell him so that he is found in his hand.”
This attitude is consistent with the Bible’s libertarian treatment of individual freedom and the prohibition against forced servitude:
15 Slaves who have escaped to you from their owners shall not be given back to them. 16 They shall reside with you, in your midst, in any place they choose in any one of your towns, wherever they please; you shall not oppress them. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16 )
It even says the type of slavery that happened in Egypt was wrong since it says that you shall not crush (H3905) the sojourners like has been done to you in Egypt:
You shall not wrong or oppress H3905 a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)
This is because the same word H3905 is used to describe the oppression of the Egyptians upon the Israelite:
The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress H3905 them. (Exodus 3:9)
You shall not oppress H3905 a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)
we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. H3906 (Deu 26:7)
It in fact says that you should treat sojourners as natives:
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:34)
It says that you should never rule over anyone like the Egyptians did to the Israelites (the context in Ezekiel is criticizing their behavior):
The Egyptians became ruthless H6531 in imposing tasks on the Israelites, (Exo 1:13)
You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled H6531 them. (Ez 34:4)
So if they couldn’t behave like the Egyptians and they couldn’t capture or force people to stay with them then what motivation could servants have for staying? I think this was a way for people who had gotten into debt (by committing a crime or otherwise) to get back on their feet by making an extended contract with someone. The servant could break that contract but if they broke it for no good reason then other people would be less likely to want to have them as a servant. It also says to provide them with resources when they went out, this may have been partially motivation for staying. In addition this may imply that they came in with nothing, hence were working to get back on their feet:
And when you send a male slave out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. 14 Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press, thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 15:13)
There are intricacies to these contracts that often escape our notice; servants could be given authority to manage the household and manage the marriage of a son (Genesis 24:2) and also may have been heirs automatically when no children were present (Genesis 15:3). They could own property (2 Samuel 19:17), and they, or a relation, could buy their freedom regardless of the master’s will to keep them (Lev 25:47–50).
And it seems to have had a positive connotation:
Then she said, “May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.” (Ruth 2:13)
You could replace “servant” with “daughter” and it would still make sense. Interestingly a son is said to serve the father and it uses the same word that means “servant” elsewhere:
They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve H5647 them. (Mal 3:17)
Since you have to capture someone to rape them and you can’t capture people this would outlaw rape. Also raping a person is like taking them temporarily as a sex slave so the prohibition against forced servitude or slavery would indirectly outlaw rape as well.
2 The second reason it does not explicitly mention rape is because of the nature of ancient law which is not meant to be comprehensive:
Excursus: The Paradigmatic Nature of Biblical Law
Modern societies generally have opted for exhaustive law codes. That is, every action modern society wishes to regulate or prohibit must be specifically mentioned in a separate law. Under the expectations of this exhaustive law system, state and/or federal law codes run to thousands of pages and address thousands of individual actions by way of requirement or restriction or control or outright banning of those actions. By this approach, all actions are permitted that are not expressly forbidden or regulated. Thus it is not uncommon that criminals in modern Western societies evade prosecution because of a “technicality” or a “loophole” in the law—their undesirable actions are not exactly prohibited or regulated by a written law, so they cannot be convicted even though an objective observer may be convinced that what they did surely deserved punishment.
Ancient laws did not work this way. They were paradigmatic, giving models of behaviors and models of prohibitions/punishments relative to those behaviors, but they made no attempt to be exhaustive. Ancient laws gave guiding principles, or samples, rather than complete descriptions of all things regulated. Ancient people were expected to be able to extrapolate from what the sampling of laws did say to the general behavior the laws in their totality pointed toward. Ancient judges were expected to extrapolate from the wording provided in the laws that did exist to all other circumstances and not to be foiled in their jurisprudence by any such concepts as “technicalities” or “loopholes.” When common sense told judges that a crime had been committed, they reasoned their way from whatever the most nearly applicable law specified to a decision as to how to administer proper justice in the case before them. Citizens of ancient Israel, and especially its judges, had to learn to extrapolate from whatever laws they had received from Yahweh to whatever justice-challenging situation they were dealing with. The number of laws dealing with any given application of justice might be few, but that would not prevent justice from being applied. It would simply have been the case that all parties were expected to appeal for guidance to those laws that did exist, whether or not expressed specifically in terms that dealt with the case under consideration. In other words, the Israelites had to learn to see the underlying principles in any law and not let the specifics of the individual casuistic citation mislead them into applying the law too narrowly.
God’s revealed covenant law to Israel was paradigmatic. No Israelite could say: “The law says I must make restitution for stolen oxen or sheep (Exod. 22:1), but I stole your goat. I don’t have to pay you back,” or “The law says that anyone who attacks his father or mother must be put to death (Exod. 21:15), but I attacked my grandmother, so I shouldn’t be punished,” or “The law says that certain penalties apply for hitting someone with a fist or a stone (Exod. 21:18), but I kicked my neighbor with my foot and hit him with a piece of wood, so I shouldn’t be punished.” Such arguments would have insulted the intelligence of all concerned and made no impact on those rendering judgments. It is in connection with the paradigmatic nature of Israel’s covenant law that Jesus, following the established tradition in Judaism, could make so sweeping an assertion as that two laws sum up all the rest [Matt. 22:34-40]. Properly understood, two laws do indeed sum up everything in the entire legal corpus of the Old Testament. So do ten laws (the Ten Words/Commandments); so do all six hundred and thirteen. The numbers go no higher, nor would they need to. If a reasonable number of comprehensive and comprehensible laws (as few as two, as many as six hundred and thirteen) are provided to a people as paradigms for proper living, there is no excuse for that people to claim ignorance of how to behave or to claim innocence when their sins are found out.
. . .
A final implication of paradigmatic law: not all laws will be equally comprehensive in scope. That is, some will be very broad in their applicability (love Yahweh your God) and some much more narrow (do not bear false witness). One might ask, “Why not say ‘don’t be dishonest in any way,’ which would be broader and more comprehensive than ‘don’t bear false witness’?” But that would be missing the way paradigmatic law works: through a somewhat randomly presented admixture of rather specific examples of more general behaviors and very general regulations of broad categories of behavior, the reader/listener comes to understand that all sorts of situations not exactly specified (either because a law is so broad or so narrow) are also implicitly covered. In other words, when all the laws are considered together, one’s impression is that both the very narrow, precise issues and the very broad, general issues fall under the purview of God’s covenant. The wide variability of comprehensiveness is intended to help the person desiring to keep the covenant to say, “I now see that in the tiniest detail as well as in the widest, most general way, I am expected to try to keep this law—in all its implications, not just in terms of its exact wording.” Some commandments are thus less broad in scope in the way they are expressed than is necessary to cover all the intended actions; others are so broad in scope in the way they are expressed that one could never think up all the ways they might be applied. This is just as it should be. The narrow and the broad taken together suggest the overall comprehensiveness of God’s covenant will for his people. (p. 442-45) https://www.rodneychrisman.com/2010/08/11/the-paradigmatic-nature-of-biblical-law/ see original source: https://books.google.com/books?id=8H9E00e5PSwC&pg=PA442#v=onepage&q&f=false
3 There was already a law mandating that servants not be held against their will. This can be combined with the rule of “light and heavy” to also outlaw holding anyone against their will which is a prerequisite for rape.
15 Slaves who have escaped to you from their owners shall not be given back to them. 16 They shall reside with you, in your midst, in any place they choose in any one of your towns, wherever they please; you shall not oppress them. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16 )
Essentially servants would have had the least rights in the society, so if people with the least rights couldn’t be held against their will then how much more the non-servants? Light and heavy is described below:
Kal Vahomer (Light and heavy)
The Kal vahomer rule says that what applies in a less important case will certainly apply in a more important case. A kal vahomer argument is often, but not always, signaled by a phrase like “how much more…”
The Rabbinical writers recognize two forms ok kal vahomer:
kal vahomer meforash – In this form the kal vahomer argument appears explicitly. kal vahomer satum – In which the kal vahomer argument is only implied. There are several examples of kal vahomer in the Tenach.
For example: Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner. (Proverbs 11:31)
And: If you have run with footmen and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? (Jerermiah 12:5a)
Other Tenach examples to look at: Deuteronomy 31:27; 1 Samuel 23:3; Jerermiah 12:5b; Ezekiel 15:5; Esther 9:12
There are several examples of kal vahomer in the New Testament. Y’shua often uses this form of argument.
For example: If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? (Jn. 7:23)
And: What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. (Mt. 12:11-12)
Other examples of Y’shua’s usage of kal vahomer are: Matthew 6:26, 30 = Luke 12:24, 28; Mathhew 7:11 = Luke 11:13; Matthew 10:25 & John 15:18-20; Matthew 12:12 & John 7:23
4 The fourth reason rape may not have been mentioned is because of cultural differences that made it not as important to address directly.
Unlike the Greeks and Romans, the ANE was not very ‘into’ using slaves/captives for sexual purposes, even though scholars earlier taught this:
“During the pinnacle of Sumerian culture, female slaves outnumbered male. Their owners used them primarily for spinning and weaving. Saggs maintains that their owners also used them for sex, but there is little actual evidence to support such a claim” [OT:EML:69]
There’s no case in the Bible where rape was taken lightly. The rape of the concubine in Judges was avenged by a national civil war. (Judges 19-21) The rape of Tamar by Amnon was avenged by Amnon’s death and possibly was the cause of another national civil war because David didn’t punish Amnon. (2 Sam. 13) What’s commonly called the rape of Dinah (Gen 34:2) (which may have even been consensual) was avenged by genocide. (Gen 34:25-31) Do we even take rape that seriously today? I think not.
The one possible exception to this pattern is in judges 21 where the men of Benjamin are given women that were captured from Jabesh-Gilead, in addition, they are invited to steal women at a festival which they accomplish. However, a few points: 1. This was a terrible time in Israel and the story illustrates that. 2. There is also genocide and killing going on left and right so the fact that another atrocity is overlooked is expected. 3. The women of Jabesh-Gilead that Benjamin take are specifically those that have never lain with a man. There is no way to test for virginity reliably–especially in that day–and so this was most likely because the women were too young to have been with a man, hence they would have had to wait for them to mature before marriage. 4. It is never said that they raped anyone, rather the women seeing that they were taken and that their fathers were not going to do anything about it may have eventually acquiesced willingly (although admittedly this still terrible and is not consensual since it is done under duress and manipulation). Nevertheless, these cases differ from the explicitly stated cases of rape and do not show an–overall–cultural acquiescence to those cases.
In the Torah women were protected from having their conjugal duty diminished “If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife.” (Ex 21:10) and Rachel and Leah were able to trade a night with Jacob for mandrakes Gen 30:14-18. Also note that it’s the less attractive Leah that tells Jacob: “‘You must come in to me; for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night.” God killed Onan for not having sex in a way that would cause pregnancy when he was supposed to perform the duty of the Levarite in Genesis 38:8-10. Hannah’s prayer was answered by God when she cried because she was not able to become pregnant and was ridiculed by her rival 1 Samuel 1:1-28. Part of one of the Jewish interpretations of Leviticus 19:29 in the Talmud is to not deny your daughter her right of marriage for too long:
Ein Yaakov (Glick Edition), Sanhedrin 9:1 (Fol. 76) You shall not profane your daugher (Lev. 19, 29). R. Eliezer says: “This refers to one who marries off his [young] daughter to an old man.” R. Akiba says: “This refers to one who leaves his daughter unmarried until she enters the age of womanhood.” R. Cahana in the name of R. Akiba said (Ib. b) Who is to be considered poor and shrewd-wicked? He who has left his daughter unmarried until she enters the age of womanhood.”
Rather than sex being an obligation of women, it seems that it was an obligation of men especially for the purpose of giving women children. This probably breaks a lot of the preconceptions most people have about the Biblical culture.
Here’s an interesting statement on how culture really determines what people are likely to do:
At the same time, many of the men who have violated a woman sexually do not meet clinical diagnostic criteria as either sociopaths, sexual deviants, or for that matter neurologically (or intellectually) impaired. While “stranger danger” stirs deep, easy dread (and is hence a useful trope for screenwriters and politicians), most sexual violence takes place among otherwise normative people who are familiar with each other and are involved in some type of relationship. This raises the possibility that to these perpetrators, the violence appears, in context, normative. By this argument, a sizable proportion of the men who attack women are following, rather than flaunting, social dictates.
The role of social dictates in shaping individual behavior is often overlooked because we are inclined to favor internal causes when explaining other people’s behavior. This tendency is so fundamental that it has a name: The Fundamental Attribution Error. (When evaluating our own, particularly negative behavior, however, we often rely on less damning external explanations. To wit: you’re late for work because you’re lazy. I’m late because of traffic. This is called the “actor-observer effect”).
It turns out, however, that social and situational variables often override individual characteristics in predicting one’s behavior and overall future. If I need to predict whether you’ll be dancing next Friday night, it’s better for me to inquire about where you’ll be that night than about your extraversion score on a personality test. If I want to know whether you’ll become wealthy, I’m better off basing my prediction on whether your parents are wealthy than on the conscientiousness score on your personality test. We are more beholden to our circumstances than we tend to believe. This is true in general; and it’s true for sexual violence in particular. For example, contextual and group factors (such as orders from the leadership, pre-conflict rates of sexual violence, intra-group dynamics, gender inequality) predict the prevalence of war rapes better than the personalities or characteristics of individual soldiers.
Circumstances matter in part because they set (or remove) certain hard parameters. Regardless of your personal characteristics, if you’re at your wedding, you’re going to dance. The fact also remains that if you are born in Afghanistan to poor parents, you have no access to capital. If you’re born in Manhattan to wealthy parents, you do. Circumstances, particularly social ones, also matter greatly because as herd animals, we are utterly dependent on the approval, acceptance, cooperation, and support of others. Thus, we are wired to notice, take into account, and align with the behavior of those around us.
If you’re still telling yourself that you are your own person, doing your thing, not giving a damn about what others think—then you need to grow up and face the (social) facts. Society gives you life. It is your main source of strength and identity. Without it you’re hopeless—an ant that has lost its colony. Society provides you with the tools and rules for living. It has fearsome powers of reward and retribution. In other words society, as the sociologist Randall Collins has argued brilliantly, is God. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-therapy/201902/when-men-attack-why-and-which-men-sexually-assault-women
We expect people back then to be like they are today. However, this isn’t always the case. The first difference we do know is that they were a polygynist society which is sometimes caused by a need to deal with the issue of lack of men (sometimes caused by war):
However, this is speculation. I haven’t had any luck on finding what the actual gender ratio was in biblical times and when I have found articles there seem to be different opinions.
However, some things I can observe from the law and culture is that: 1. there is no premarital sex, a man who sleeps with a woman is supposed to marry her “he shall surely marry her” and “unless the father absolutely refuses” in Exodus 22:16 and Deuteronomy 22:29 (I argue that this is indeed a seduction but don’t have time to go into this now) Here’s something I wrote that touches on premarital sex: https://hebrewroots.intentionalcommunities.world/2019/02/03/gesenius-and-leviticus-1929/ This makes early sexual competition over mates virtually non-existent if followed correctly. 2. Marriage is arranged by the family at a young age which also prevents any rejection based on sexual prowess that seems to increase the risk of men becoming rapists. It is possible however that someone’s wife would reject them and that might increase the risk of rape. However, based on my arguments on the Torah the consent of both the person being married and the guardian was required because the Torah gives the freedom to run away for any reason based on not holding servants against their will and the rule of light and heavy. Also, the modern rise in narcissistic personality disorder may be a result of modern living and individualism all of which would be absent in the tribal society of the Bible: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201401/why-is-narcissism-increasing-among-young-americans
The following is about rape being associated with narcissism:
Heavy drinking, perceived pressure to have sex, a belief in “rape myths” — such as the idea that no means yes — are all risk factors among men who have committed sexual assault. A peer group that uses hostile language to describe women is another one. Yet there also seem to be personal attributes that have a mediating effect on these factors. Men who are highly aroused by rape porn — another risk factor — are less likely to attempt sexual assault if they score highly on measures of empathy, Dr. Malamuth has found. What about the idea that rape is about power over women? Some experts feel that research into hostile attitudes toward women supports this idea. In general, however, researchers say motives are varied and difficult to quantify. Dr. Malamuth has noticed that repeat offenders often tell similar stories of rejection in high school and of looking on as “jocks and the football players got all the attractive women.”As these once-unpopular, often narcissistic men become more successful, he suspects that “getting back at these women, having power over them, seems to have become a source of arousal.”
I should be clear when arguing this that I am not blaming women rejecting men for causing men to rape. I am saying based on science allowing men to freely compete and be rejected by women on an individual basis seems to increase the likelihood that narcissistic men will rape. A family-based method of choosing mates would redirect anger towards a rival family which could be bad as well, it’s just not likely to result in rejected narcissistic men blaming women. There’s a similar behavior in orangutans for those who find animal studies helpful in explaining human behavior:
One possible reason for the rapes, she said, is because it takes so long for males to mature in the rain forest. In zoos, captive male orangutans usually become mature at age 13 or 14. In the rain forest of Borneo, however, they do not become mature until age 20, only then developing the cheek pads and large throat sac of a male adult. Although they are capable of sexual activity before that, females in heat are not attracted to them, so their only sexual option becomes force.
There’s a Biblical ethics paper I am working on that will address more misconceptions like this and fill in some details on how ancient Israelite law was supposed to work. I think there is a huge amount of bias in the way people interpret the Bible from chronological bigotry. Us moderns looking backwards/downwards like to feel good about ourselves and like we are making moral progress. We also just like to be able to feel outraged about something, whether it’s Harambe’s killing or ancient people mistreating their women. This seems to be the case irrespective of our level of knowledge on these topics. However, the bias that comes with interpreting the law through a lens that assumes words like “slave” (used by some translations of the Bible) meant the same thing back then as it does today is even worse. If we poison the well with misunderstandings as bad as that, it’s no wonder that we see other parts of the law as barbaric.
I’m not arguing that what Jesus said then is applicable to our situation today since the Herodians were different (and worse) than our government. Herod was actually divinely executed for starting to accept that he was God (an anti-Christ) in Acts 12:22-23. Here’s some other evidence I think shows people have misread “give unto Ceasar”:
The Herodians were the political party of Herod the king and favored submitting to Herod and to Rome, hence it is interesting that they brought that group in order to trap him:
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians. . .(Matthew 22)
Luke’s version is even more clear:
20 So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor. 21 They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. 22 “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”(Luke 20)
An unorthodox reading of Christ’s responses can be made in light of Deuteronomy 10:14 which says
“Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it.”
and Genesis 1:27 which states
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Compare this with:
“And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” . . . “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.'” (Matthew 22:20-21)
Here’s how I think the inscription connects: “But what did the inscription say? On the front, the coin said “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.” The reverse side of the coin read “Greatest Priest.” But that is how it was inscribed in Latin. In Greek, Tiberius coins and inscriptions read theouhuios (“son of the god”). Note with special emphasis that Tiberius put the word “god” before the word “son” in his inscriptions and coins.” http://christianmonthlystandard.com/index.php/son-of-god-in-roman-world/
“son of” can mean “in the nature of”, or “in the image of” e.g. Colossians 1:15 Add on to this that Jesus had charges of opposing the payment of taxes: Luke 23:2 and that he says to not let tax collectors in the Church: Matthew 18:17 and you can see why you might read Jesus as saying cryptically not to pay taxes. (cryptically because the Herodians were there and he didn’t want to get killed just yet) However, this must not be used to negate: 1 Peter 2:13-25 for those rulers who “punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” I think this holds for most governments in general even though there are a lot of problems in the world.