The Historicity Of Noah And Abraham

1.  Introduction

This paper seeks to show from a literary and structural standpoint, that the author of Genesis, primarily Moses, sought to write history and theology in this work. It will do so by comparisons between the records of a flood in other ancient near eastern texts, in particular the Epic of Gilgamesh, with that of the period of Noah. It will also seek to show that Noah and Abraham best fit with the late third and early second millenniums BC, and that this can be seen in a comparative analysis with other ANE cultures. It will also be argued that there is a a structural and thematic argument for a unified gospel witness. Finally, it will be posited that there is a certain polemical nature to the writing which shows that the author was familiar with contemporary myths and beliefs.

 2.  Literary Genre And Structure.

Foundational to both the historicity of Noah and Abraham, and indeed to the book of Genesis as a whole, is its genre. Radical critics see the whole as myth, but generally speaking it is the material from Genesis one to the end of the account of Abraham that have received the most attention. This is true even in evangelical and neo-evangelical circles. However, there are any number of clues which show that the author intended to write history. The use of the key word toledot, translated as generations, account, or history speaks to this. Although from the second toledot on the focus is on genealogies, even these also are tied to narrative. The first toledot should in fact give us a broader definition for what the author intended, namely that it is concerned with more than genealogical succession, or with a simple account of this, but rather with a larger history, from the origin of history itself.1

Hamilton draws a parallel in the combination of genealogy with narrative. “The combination of lists (for genealogies) and narrative – such as one finds in Genesis 1-11 – is not unknown in the Mesopotamian world. A late Assyrian dynastic list appears to have followed up its list of antediluvian kings with a literary narrative of the Flood.”2 Sarna, on the other hand suggests that the prose of the flood narrative was originally an Israelite epic, for which he provides what can only be described as very flimsy ‘evidence’.3

Hoffmeier writes the following concerning the biblical flood narrative and the telodoth structure.

The story occupies the entirety of the third toledot in Genesis (6:9-9:28). My treatment above of the toledot formulae as a genre pertains here. That is why I concur with the translations “this is the history of Noah (Cassuto) or “this is the family history of Noah (Wenham), as capturing the essence of the material contained in this unit.4

He adds the following as to composition and structure.

Despite the classic position that the flood story is a literary composite, more recent treatment of the flood narrative has shown the coherence and unity of the story. Wenham’s seminal study has shown that the narrative is arranged palistrophically or chiastically, that is, a passage arranged in a verbal pattern that moves towards the turning point or apex (“God remembered Noah” – and then as the story moves towards resolution, key words and numbers appear in the same place in the second part of the narrative (8:2-19) as they did in the opening section (6:10-7:24).5

After noting Kitchen’s early work comparing the flood narrative with the Atrahasis, he notes the work of Kikiwada and Quinn who “embraced Wenham’s chiastic analysis of the flood narrative and further argued for structural unity of all Genesis 1-11.”6 The account of Abram/Abraham also holds together as a unity, it too is introduced by the genealogy of Terah (11:27-32), and as will be shown later, there is also a literary and structural unity between the so-called primeval history of 1-11, and the patriarchal (12-50).

Garrett notes the chiastic structure as developed by Rendsburg from 11:27 (A) to the genealogy of Nahor 22:20-40 (A’) with the covenant at the core with E and E’ with 15:1-16:16 and 17:1-18:15 respectively.7 Rensburg also “argues that the two sets of linking material (23:1-25:18 and 35:23-36:43) are arranged ‘along parallel lines.’8 Although Garrett himself has a problem with this structure, it is only one among many. Garrett proposes a different structure for the entire book, drawing a parallel to the Atrahasis. With his structure the ‘Genealogy’ of 11:27-32 is viewed as the ‘Transition’ between the ‘Primeval History’ of 1:1-11:26 to the ‘Threat’ of ‘The Abrahamic Cycle’ of 12:1-25:11. This ‘Threat’ and Transition’ format alternates until the final ‘Resolution’ of 46:28-50:26. Garrett’s structure has the added advantage of the historical parallel with Atrahasis, lending support to the time frame of the biblical account.9

3.  Comparative Literature of the Ancient Near East – Noah And The Flood.

3.1.  Introduction.

Much ink has been used in discussions over the historical validity of the flood, including its extent. However, it also serves as a hallmark of the same time period as is found in other ANE texts. As such it serves as the best test case for showing the historicity of its human hero – Noah. By its very nature, if one can demonstrate the parallels, and in the case of the common Epic of Gilgamesh in particular, it certainly would lend support, both in the parallels and the differences, with other stories of that period and before.

The following from Sarna shows how one’s basic presuppositions affects how one will interpret any given data. “The widespread popularity of flood stories, their prevalence among such a large variety of peoples living at different times as well as different places, argues against literary interdependence, a common source, or reference to a single historic event.” On the other hand, someone like the present writer, believes that what he has noted in fact gives evidence of a common historical event.

However, Sarna is convinced, based on no evidence at all, that “popular imagination has been at work magnifying local disastrous floods into catastrophes of universal proportions,” there commonalities are “explained as common human psychological and religious reactions to a given set of circumstances finding expression in a literary stereotype.” 1 What is remarkable here is that Sarna is actually regarded as one of the more conservative treatments of Genesis.

3.2  A Comparison Between Genesis 6-8 And The Gilgamesh Epic.

The following will note the similarities and differences between the Gilgamesh Epic, having the most parallels with the biblical account, and the differences, with the goal of showing how both actually lend support to the historicity of the biblical account, including of course Noah.

3.2.1 Similarities.

1. Sarna notes some basic generic commonalities between the Epic and the biblical account. “Religious man saw in these upheavals of nature the activity of the divine and attributed their cause to man’s angering of the gods. Most frequently, one man and his family, the favourite of the gods, survived the deluge to father a new human race.”11

2. Both are preceded by a divine warning.

3. Both have a command to build a water vessel.

4. Both have a hero who constructs the vessel.

5. Both include other people and animals.

6. The flood comes and subsides by divine initiative.

7. Both land on a mountain.

8. Both heroes send out birds to see if the waters have fully subsided.

9. These heroes offer a sacrifice after the flood.

10. Both receive a divine blessing.

3.2.2 Differences between the two.

1. The most obvious difference between the two is the monotheism of Genesis, and the   polytheism of the Epic.

2. The Genesis account is a word based revelation, whereas the epic is a dream.

3. In the biblical account the cause of the flood, and the need for blood substitutionary redemption, is human depravity. As noted by Hamilton, “right at the beginning there is a clear-cut motivation behind the Flood.”12 In the Atrahasis Epic, believed to be behind the Gilgamesh, it is the noise of the humans that motivates the gods, because they had trouble sleeping.

4. The biblical account, as a counter polemic, views as part of this covenant relationship, the reiteration of the command to be fruitful and multiply (1:28; 9:1, 7).13

5. Another obvious difference between the two is that, in part, the LORD establishes the covenant with Noah and his family alone among humans (6:18). The focus, as always, is on salvation history.14

6. Included with the covenantal motif is the inclusion of seven pairs of clean animals (7:2-3, 8) so we are informed of the kind of redemption that the LORD God has in view, this comes to expression with the sacrifice offered upon their departure for atonement of sin. By contrast, in the Epic, the hero has to offer up a sacrifice for the gods because they are getting hungry, so again we see a scoffing polemic here.

7. If there is the obvious sameness in the building of a vessel, the dissimilarity is in its dimensions. The measurements given to Noah are of an ideally navigable vessel, whereas the Epic’s cube would surely sink. This would tend to reinforce the idea that the Noahic account is real history, whereas the Epic is only myth. Also, the former had three decks, but the latter had seven, lending to the idea of the latter tipping over and sinking.15

8. Another obvious difference is that in the case of Noah there is no mention of helpers in the build, whereas with the Epic, there are helpers who also enter the ark. Yet, they do not build a navigable vessel, but it does focus on their skill and efforts, whereas Noah found grace (6:8).

9. Also, as is common throughout Genesis, the author includes in his genre historical pointers, as it were, which is missing in the myth of the Epic. The Epic is poetic myth, whereas the genre of Genesis is historical narrative.

10. Whereas Noah sent out a Raven first and then a dove, the Epic sends the raven last, after a sparrow and dove. It is more logical and realistic to leave the dove for last as the foul that would travel to the surface of the ground, as opposed to the raven’s mountain peaks, the latter also being more hardy. This again shows that the author of Genesis intended to write true history.16

11. The Genesis account has two sources of water, from above and below, whereas the Epic only has rain, and only for a week. Critics suggest that forty days and forty nights would not be enough, but it is surely more realistic than the Epic, one suspects on purpose.

12. The vessels land at two different locations, with the Ark on one of the mountains of Ararat, while in the Epic on Mt. Nisir.

13. “The Flood narrative abounds with illustrations by which the temporal structure of the plot is confirmed through the use of dates, which state when something happened or how long it lasted. See, for example, in succession 7:11; 8:4, 5, 13, 14.”17

14. Whereas the Epic portrays the flood as universal, the text of scripture depicts the flood as global.18

15. In the Epic the gods fear what has happened and swarm like flies over the offering because they were hungry. It shows how in the Epic the gods are made in man’s image, instead of the stark contrast of the Genesis account, echoing creation.

16. “In the Mesopotamian account, the gods gather around the sacrifice like flies because they are hungry; in the biblical account, Noah’s sacrifice assuages God’s heart with regard to sin.”19

17. “In the Mesopotamian parallels, the heroes shut the hatch themselves. Noah’s salvation is due to divine grace, seen in God closing the door for him.”20

3.2.3.  The Significance Of The Similarities Between Genesis 6-8 And The Epic.

The first thing to note with the above, concerns the date of the Epic, which it is posited as stemming from the 17th century BC in Mesopotamia while even the earliest date for the writing of the book of Genesis would place its composition around the mid- to late- 15th century BC. However, Hamilton notes, quoting from Lambert, with respect to the sending out of birds that there are no known copies of the 11th tablet of the Epic earlier than 750 BC. “So then, ‘the only surviving testimony to the most telling parallel [between the OT and Mesopotamian Flood myths] happens to be later than the biblical account.’”21

Thus, one either works with the date of the event, or the respective dates for the written records of each. If it is fair to posit that the historical event must have occurred in the latter part of the third millennium, then the various accounts may in fact bear witness to the historicity of a common event in that period, which could account for the other similarities. Secondly, however, it is the nature of the dissimilarities that really sticks out. As Currid and others point out, the writer of Genesis clearly also had a polemic objective against the extra-biblical epics, which has also been widely noted in the Genesis account of origins.22

3.3  Summary Of The Primeval Material.

“To sum up on the ‘primeval period, one may note that Abraham is said to come from Mesopotamia (Ur, Haran), an event that may be placed in the early second millennium BC. For 1000 years before, Western Semites are attested in Mesopotamia, especially in the last few centuries of this span. There is no reason to exclude them from the common experiences of life in Mesopotamia, or from the impact of Sumero-Akkadian culture in Mesopotamia (e.g, in methods of literary formulation of common traditions in sundry individual forms). Thus Abraham could be postulated as bringing the basis of Genesis 1-9 and 10-11 (primeval history; ancestry) westward as family tradition.”23

4.  The Historicity Of Abraham

1.  A Shared Genre.

Although it is a common practice to divide the book of Genesis between the primeval history of 1-11 from the patriarchal of 12-50, as we have already seen it is the toledot formula that in fact unites the entire book. This formula, it is argued here, lends credence to there being an overall unity to the book of a genre of historical narrative. This is counter to the evolutionary view of a Longman for example, even though he acknowledges the continuity. In fact, he also acknowledges the consistent use of the waw-consecutive verbal form, as well as a unified theology throughout.

The argument that all of Genesis is a theological history is rooted in the consistent use of the waw-consecutive verbal form, which is the Hebrew form used to narrate past action as well as the appearance of the toledot formula throughout the book. These two features appear to indicate that Genesis 1-11 and 12-50 share a similar genre.24

Nevertheless, he goes on to then dispute this evidence with the following. “That said, there is not only similarity in the intent to speak of the past but also a difference between Genesis 1-11 and 12-50 in how the author presents the past.”25 This writer would argue that there is much more than mere similarity in the structure and genre, it was rather a deliberate decision to convey that the whole is real history. The fact that Longman proceeds to argue his point not from the text but from the presuppositions of a certain scientific perspective betrays the flimsy nature of his hypothesis.26 He, and those evangelicals who follow suit, should take to heart Thomas Kuhn’s warning about scientific revolutions.

Charles Halton, in his Introduction to the three comparative views on Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither, points to the infamous case of Galileo, and he rightly also pointed out the importance of hermeneutics that respects the genre.27 There is no doubt that the very history of genre and structure analysis owes much to men like Gunkel, but as Halton notes, other scholars soon began to divert from some of his basic presuppositions.28 In the afore mentioned comparative study, none of the scholars question the academic credentials of the others, though they differ significantly on the genre, but Hoffmeier, who takes the genre as history and theology, as advocated in this paper, rightly notes that “the dominant scientific worldview has understandably influenced the way Christians read the bible in general and Genesis in particular.”29 He goes on to note the thematic literary connection between 1-11 and 12-52, in the process quoting from D. A. Clines work on the same, which he also develops through the rest of the Pentateuch.

This convenient packaging of Genesis 1-11, however, is an artificial division imposed on the text of Genesis. David Clines has made this point in his thematic overview of Genesis, observing, “There is at no point a break between primeval and patriarchal history.” (The Theme, 84) Indeed, we are actually introduced to Abraham in Genesis 11:27-32, learning of his parentage, his original home in Chaldean Ur, his wife Sarah’s barrenness, and about his migration with his father Terah and family to Canaan, which stalled in Haran. This lack of break between the primeval and patriarchal narratives is likely intentional. In his search for the “theme” of the Pentateuch,” Clines proposes that what unified these five books thematically is the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, in which God pledges the patriarchal land, posterity, and a relationship (blessing) with him.30

Waltke, and others, in fact followed this same thematic path in both books cited in this paper, and in his course on Genesis and Judges/Ruth.

It must be admitted by all, that in current studies on the historicity of the Patriarchs, that the scriptural narratives are our sole source. “No external, firsthand source of Moses’ time or earlier explicitly mentions Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or the latter sons.”31 However, there are “date indicators” which enable us to separate reality from fantasy.32 The following will follow the biblical chronology, highlighting these date indicators, in an effort to show that the time of the events recorded during the time of Noah and Abraham in particular, can be most appropriately dated in the later third millennium to the early second millennium BC.

2.  Semi-Nomad Or Resident Alien.

Wiseman, points to the findings at Ebla to draw some parallels with the history, language, and culture of the Upper Euphrates in the latter half of the 3rd millennium BC. Contra Van Seters, he cites many examples of the semi-nomadic nature of the travels of Abraham in particular, from southern Mesopotamia to Syro-Palestine, and notes the common travels of semi-nomads and merchants in this same area and time frame but then oddly seems to reject the mention of tents as supporting this thesis.33 He even notes that semi-nomads would sometimes take over urban settlements in areas where they settled.34

There is even a possible Ebla reference to Abraham ‘the Hebrew’ (cf. Gen. 14:13, ha’ibri) c2300 BC.35 Nevertheless, from what appears to be theological reasons, he wants to see Abraham more as a “resident alien.” The respect shown him by the Pharaoh, and the pact with Abimelech for examples, would certainly seem to dispute his thesis, but either way, there are historical point markers to typical relationships in the period. It seems odd therefore that he rejects the sister example among the Hurrians, really without any support for this rejection.36

3.  Ur of the Chaldees, Egypt, And Long-distance Marriages.

Kitchen maintains that “Ur of the Chaldees” “is undoubtedly to be identified with the famous ancient city of Ur in south Babylonia (south Iraq).”37 Pastoral groups at this time identified with the closest city, in Abram’s case Haran. Official envoys and merchants also travelled the same routes in the early second millennium. After this time period the flow of traffic was more from north to south. The events of Genesis 12:10-20 were true to the customs at the time, the pharaohs being commonly partial to attractive foreign ladies, as texts for the Middle and New Kingdoms attest.38 Long-distance marriages, such as Abraham’s servant seeking a wife for Isaac, and later Isaac for Jacob, was also a common practice.39

4.  Wider Political Horizons.

The events recorded in Genesis 14 have stirred up great debate, but as Kitchen notes, there are several features that betray the cultural context. Firstly, there are the military alliances.

Such alliances of several kings one may find at all periods where written records are available for the region. However…this kind of alliance of eastern kings was only possible at certain periods. From circa 2000 to 1750 (1650 at the extreme), we have the one and only period during which extensive power alliances were common in Mesopotamia and with its neighbors.40

A second political horizon is the tradition of Mesopotamian kings intervening in Syria, “just as the eastern allies did in Gen. 14.41 Thirdly, “the text of Yakhdun-lim of Mari shows striking affinities overall with the basics of the narrative in Gen. 14.”42 Finally, there is the common practice of night time attacks.

5.  Treaties And Covenants.

It is one thing to think that editorial work was conducted on Genesis and the Pentateuch up to and including the exile, but it is quite another to suggest that it was not in circulation in some form during the time of the events recorded. There was a time when Deuteronomy in particular was treated this way, coming late for the source critics in their dating schemas. However, with the discovery of ancient near eastern treaty documents it quickly became apparent that the understanding of the biblical covenants and treaties, and the Mosaic in particular as the full blown form so to speak, began to emerge. One can think of Kline or Craigie in their treatments.

The same can be said, as we now can show, with the previous covenants as well. Writing in 2003 Kitchen noted that “work in the Mari and Tell Leilan has produced almost a dozen treaties, not yet fully published. In the four or five formal documents available so far, there is a consistent format.”43 It must be stressed that these parallels are with human to human, and not specifically with the LORD and his people, but they are cited here for historical reasons. The following is a comparison chart. See Kitchen’s chart.44

6.  Heirs, Adoption, And Proxy.

“In antiquity, if couples could not have children in the natural way, then substitutes had to be found. In the patriarchal narratives, more than one option was available: adoption of a non-relative or producing a child by another woman.”45 Of course we see this historical context first in Abraham complaining to God that the promise he had given of seed and inheritance would have to come through Eliezar. Then, when this was refuted, he and Sarah decided that they must follow the common practice of a proxy. Kitchen cites ANE cases for both.46

7.  ANE Religion, El, And Monotheism.

The simple forms of patriarchal worship do find parallels among pagan nomads of the ANE. Again, Kitchen cites examples from the beginning of the second millennium. There is even a parallel in name. We read of the LORD (Yahweh) saying at Exodus 6:3 “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai (‘God Almighty’) – and by my name YHWH did I not declare myself to them.” Of course we know that the name YHWH appears as early as Genesis 2:4, and rather than buying into a multiple source hypothesis we can see that this chapter elaborates on day six, and in particular the unique close relationship that YHWH has with his own.

However, it is worth noting the action of proclamation. Ross, commenting on Genesis 4:26 believes that here we see not praying as such, but also proclamation.47 So perhaps what we have, with the rise of the ungodly line, an evangelistic purpose, as it were, from the side of the godly. I am mindful of Dr. Waltke’s cautionary note concerning anyone doing a doctorate on the name El Shaddai, but for historical purposes it is enlightening. In any case, the point to be made here is one of historical parallel. “The form of the phrase El Shaddai fits the pattern of the divine names in the Ancient Near East, exactly as is the case with names like “‘El Olam”, “‘El Elyon” or “‘El Betel”.”48 Of course, we also have the occurrence of El Elyon with Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek at Gen. 14:18-20. Likewise with monotheism, contrary to an evolutionary view of religion, of Israel and her contemporaries, we find monotheism as early as 1500 in the extra-biblical findings.49

8.  Common Customs In The Second Millennium.

Kitchen notes, in parallel with the biblical record, the locations of the Philistines and Canaanites in the second millennium, borne out by both extra-biblical texts and archeological finds, along with the activities of hunting, herding, and caravanning.50 There are many who note, contrary to the older critical view, that camels were also in fact domesticated at this time.51 Mathews built upon the work of Kitchen above, in what this writer regards as the best defence of the historicity of the biblical record for both Noah and Abraham of all the sources cited, in his monumental two volume commentary.

9.  A Unified Covenantal Gospel Witness Proclaimed.

After arguing for the various source materials as pointers to the history surrounding Abraham, claimed in the biblical text, Garrett advocates for what he calls a unified piece specific to Abraham himself, which he calls ‘The Gospel Of Abraham’.

When the toledoth source material, the ancestor epics, the tales, and other extraneous pieces of material are removed from the Abraham cycle, what remains is a structurally and thematically unified piece in four sections. The texts are Genesis 12:1-9; 15:1-21; 17:1-27; and 22:1-19. These four texts are arranged chiastically, with 12:1-9 (A) corresponding to 22:1-19 (A’) and 15:1-21 (b) corresponding to 17:1-27 (B’).52

He will go on to argue that the existence of this unified thread, by referring to Abraham in particular, and this in regard to the promises given in their covenantal context, belies the criticism that there is no real reference to the man in this period. In other words, he is “not simply a composite of material from other sources and narratives.” Furthermore, “if a unified narrative arises from what is left, then it may be assumed that the Abraham source has been discovered.53

It should be reiterated from above, that the very genre and structure of the covenant itself fits in perfectly with the early second millennium BC. After charting the four sections chiastically, he argues that “each of the four sections of the narrative leads into the next.”54 In other words, besides the toledoth structure unifying the entire book, we have a unifying structure of the specifically Abrahamic material artistically put together to show his contemporaneity with the other material lending support to the thesis that this is both historical narrative and theology, which is in harmony with the whole of the canon which sees an organic unity of development of both history and theology, in other words salvation history. “These four texts witness to a single source and that this source had a recognizable structure and message.”55

Garrett points out that he does not intend to draw a parallel to the Gospels of the NT, rather he sees a thematic unity in the Abrahamic material itself, which conveyed the gospel in that time period in a way they would understand. These elements are as follows.

  1. A Promise founded on the birth of a son.
  2. The miraculous birth of the son.
  3. A covenant sacrifice.
  4. A covenant memorial.
  5. Alienation of the covenant community.
  6. A promise of trials for the covenant community.
  7. An eschatological hope for the covenant community.
  8. The inexplicable death of the son.
  9. The resurrection of the son.
  10. Intention and setting.56

From this, the intention and setting of The Gospel of Abraham is clear. It is the evangel, the kerygma, in which Israel in Egypt placed its hopes. In this sense, it is very much a gospel. The covenant, the promises, and the sacred history together form a message of hope for a people awaiting deliverance. The very notion that a Genesis source could formally parallel a New Testament Gospel may seem prima facie absurd. What is implied here however, is not literary dependence but a theological statement of hope, a gospel, in the context of the canon of scripture.57

This writer contends that there is an even more simple gospel thread which runs through the whole of the canon, which begins with the earliest chapters of Genesis, and thus unites Adam with the second Adam, Noah, and Abraham, and beyond.

Waltke and others make the point that from the beginning of Genesis the fact that Elohim occurs in 1:1-2:4a, and Yahweh-Elohim in 2:4b-21 section speaks to his transcendence and then his immanence, and also hence the reason Yahweh occurs in the covenantal contexts. So we also have this occurrence before the events that follow 2:25. The fall is a mix, with Satan, who is obviously estranged from God, uses Elohim (3:1), whereas when it comes to the LORD God walking to meet the humans in the garden we have Yahweh-Elohim (3:8ff.), because again he draws near, in both transcendence and immanence. Then after the judgments we find Yahweh Elohim has shed the blood of an animal or animals, to clothe them that they might once again draw near to him (3:21).

Now, there are those who would say that the idea of a substitutionary blood sacrifice is out of place here, but these same people will also debate what made Abel’s sacrifice acceptable, and why Noah also had seven pairs of clean animals. I think I see something similar perhaps in seeing the author of Genesis, just for fun let’s say Moses, editorializing here, that is, writing with the sacrificial laws in view when he put together Genesis, and thus the earliest gospel witness. Then in the Cain and able story, once again we see Yahweh (note: not Yahweh Elohim) drawing near to Cain and Abel at the time of sacrificial worship, and it seems as though the LORD is extending a hand of forgiveness to Cain but he refuses.

Then with the birth of a new seed of the woman (3:15), we have this expression concerning the name ‘Yahweh’, which seems to contradict the previous occurrences of the name, and which itself seems to contradict Ex. 6:3. Dr. Allen P. Ross, a student of Dr. Waltke’s and professor of OT at Beeson, writes the following in his Creation And Blessing, in regard to Gen. 4:26. “The verb qara, “call” can be used for naming (cf. 4:17, 25), reading, proclaiming, summoning, and praying. Usage of this expression in the Pentateuch supports the idea of proclamation more than praying (cf. Gen. 12:8; Ex. 34:6; Lev. 1:1).”58

Might the author be indicating, in the case of 4:26, that with the parting of the godly and ungodly seeds, with the case of Cain, that this necessitated, on the part of the church at that time, to begin proclaiming the gospel promise of 3:15, that just as the LORD clothed their first parents, even so he would accept a like blood sacrifice, and thus they would be clothed with the LORD’s righteousness. If this seems too much for some, then you need to ask yourself, did Adam and Eve “get saved” or not, or in a different way than Abraham, and the rest of the saints of the OT?

For me, Ross poses an interesting proposition for how far we should go back when considering the background to the Great Commission, that it was in fact the mission later of Israel to take the gospel to the nations, that this is how we should understand the Abrahamic promise that he would be a blessing to the nations, the very same gospel that the writer to the Hebrews says they had (4:2). How else are we to explain the occurrence of the instructions to Noah to include seven pairs of clean animals? How also are we to explain the sacrifice of these animals, and thus the shedding of the blood for atonement, which foreshadows both the fuller law to come, and the once for all finished work of Christ?

Not only so, but what of the cutting of the covenant with Abraham, itself a re-establishment of the Noahic and Adamic where, as per ANE parallels, a curse is visualized with the divided bloody parts, but with the proclamation of the same grace found by Noah (6;8), as seen in the LORD alone passing between the parts. Surely we ought to let the scriptures speak of the blood, and this from the very beginning, even if modern ears so often do not want to hear.

10. Conclusion: A Consistent Polemic.

Hoffmeier refers to the polemical nature not only of Genesis, but the Pentateuch as a whole.

The Torah displays an aversion for myth, and as suggested above, combating the ancient Near Eastern mythologies is overtly and subtly at work in the book of Genesis. Because of this tendency to be anti-myth (that is – accepting the polytheistic assumptions of ancient Near Eastern mythology), could it be that in Genesis 6 we have an ancient (as the term meolam – “of old” suggests) and authentic story, that in the course of time had been mythologized and part of the shared memory of the ancient Near East, but was demythologized for the Israelite audience when recorded?52

Incidentally, he is referring in particular to the story about the sons of God and the daughters of men, and is one reason why I agree with Calvin that what we have here is the men of the covenant having relations with the ungodly seed, explaining also why only Noah, the remnant of the line of promise, is the only one to survive with his family.

On the polemical nature of the flood account Hoffmeier added the following.

It is my contention that the similarities in plot sequence between these two traditions is not the result of direct borrowing, as some maintain (and most recently argued by Finkel), but that both stories independently reflect a memory of one and the same event. I also believe that the text of Genesis could well have been written in such a way as to maximally challenge the prevailing Mesopotamian view of things. Kikiwada and Quinn are on point to propose that “Genesis 1-11 is written in opposition to a Mesopotamian view of things.53

When all is said and done, it remains the case that the conclusion one comes to regarding the historicity of Noah and Abraham, and Adam and the other patriarchs for that matter, rests largely with one’s beginning presuppositions. However, it is the contention of this writer that as far as the evidence from extra-biblical sources goes, the bible is innocent till proven guilty, and there is nothing which can be marshalled to contradict the bible’s own claim to historicity.

End Notes.

1. Kitchen (1971, 2).

2. Ibid., (5).

3. (48)

4. (49)

5. Ibid., (49-50)

6. (51)

7. (114) “Rensburg especially cites verbal parallels between various texts to establish correspondence between them,” for the entire book. (113)

8. (119)

9. (121)

10. (38)

11.(38) Sarna also made a categorical statement of the absence of any scientific evidence of a universal flood, which even in the 70s was hardly conclusive.

12. Genesis, (273).

13. Ibid., (145).

14. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, (291).

15. Hamilton has seven, six plus the ground floor. Genesis, (282).

16. Waltke, Genesis, (141).

17. Ibid., (139).

18. Walton, (Dict.). Walton believes that the biblical account is also only universal and not global. His motivation is clear. We must maintain academic respectability with empiricists and their naturalism. “It is a weak interpretation that has to invent all sorts of miracles that the text says nothing about.” (321) The text is not only “non-scientific” it is also “pre-scientific.” He is correct about one thing – it is a clash of worldviews – the biblical against the myth of the ANE, and the anti-supernaturalism of secular humanism. In response to Genesis 8:3-5 in particular, Walton makes the following astonishing statement. “Revelation had not altered the Israelite view of the cosmos geography from the typical ancient Near Eastern view.” (322) Again, his primary motive for how he views and interprets the text is clear. “One of the advantages of seeking out views such as this is that they allow us to affirm the truth of the text without getting all tied up in complicated logistical and scientific discussions.” (322)

19. Waltke, OT Theology, (291).

20. Waltke, Genesis, (139).

21. (304) Cf. W. G. Lambert, “A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis,” JTS 16 (1965) 291-92.

22. Against.

23. Kitchen “Context” (6).

24. Genesis, (7).

25. Ibid., (7)

26. Ibid., (7ff.). [Cf. Young]

27. (13-17).

28. Ibid., (17-19).

29. Ibid., (23).

30. Ibid., (24-25).

31. Kitchen, Reliability, (313).

32. Ibid., (315).

33. Wiseman, BibS 134 (125-127).

34. Ibid., (127-128).

35. Ibid., (128-129).

36. Reliability, (316). At the outset it must be noted that the time of the events and the time of writing and later editorial work are obviously not identical. It is not the purpose of this paper to argue for substantial Mosaic authorship, but this is assumed. “’Chaldees’ is a qualification of later date than the pre-Mosaic period; it may have been added between 1000 and 500, precisely to distinguish the patriarchal Ur from possible northern counterparts.”

37. Kitchen adds, “Kupper remarked, ‘It is this constant flux and reflux of people on the move that one may fittingly situate the migration of Abraham, going back up from Ur to Harran, his true homeland.’” (317)

38. Ibid., (319).

39. Ibid., (318).

40. Ibid., (319-320). “What is more, it is only in this particular period (2000-1700) that the eastern realm of Elam intervened extensively in the politics of Mesopotamia – with its armies – and sent its envoys far west into Syria to Qatna. Never again did Elam follow such wide-reaching policies. So, in terms of geopolitics, the eastern alliance in Gen. 14 must be treated seriously as an archaic memory preserved in the existing book of Genesis. Moreover, envoys from Mari went regularly to Hazor in Canaan.” (321)

41. Ibid., (321).

42. Ibid., (321) “Without doubt Yahdun-lim’s firsthand inscription is much more florid a!nd far more “theologically oriented than the essentially plain, almost laconic Gen. 14 report. So, on the usual antireligious criteria against the historicity of theological coloring that biblicists commonly adopt, Gen. 14 should by rights constitute a far more definitely factual and reliable report than Yakhdun-lim’s. Which, of course, runs counter to common prejudice against the historicity of Gen. 14. But that narrative deserves a fairer hearing.”

43. Ibid., (322).

44. Ibid., (324).

45. Ibid., (325).

46. Ibid., (325-328).

47. Creation And Blessing, (169).


49. Kitchen, Reliability, (331-338).

50. Ibid., (336-338).

51. Ibid., (338-339).

52. (158)

53. (157)

54. (159)

55. (161)

56. (163-7)

57. (167)

58. (169)

59. (40-41)

60. (52)

Works Cited.

Adebayo, Faith O. “An Examination of Scriptural and Archeological Evidences for the Historicity of Biblical Patriarchs.” Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Studies Vol. 03 – Issue 05, October 2015 361-366.

Alexander, T. Desmond; Baker, David W., Eds. Dictionary Of The Old Testament Pentateuch (Downers Grove: IVP, 2003).

Anderson, Joel Edmund. Understanding Genesis 6-8: The Story Of Noah’s Flood. (Oct., 23, 2018)

_________, The Genre, Historical Context, and Purpose of Genesis 1-11 (Aug., 3, 2017)

Archer, G. “Old Testament History and Recent Archaeology – From Abraham To Moses, “ Bsac 127 (1970) 3-25.

Benjamin, Don C., Matthews, Victor H. Old Testament Parralles (New York: Paulist, 1991).

Clines, David J. A. The Theme Of The Pentateuch (Sheffield: The University Of Sheffield, 1978).

Currid, John D. Against The Gods (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013).

_______, Genesis Volume 1 (Pistyll: EP Books, 2015).

Filby, F. A. The Flood Reconsidered (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970).

Garrett, Duane A. Rethinking Genesis (Fern, Ross-shire: Mentor, 2000).

Hallo, W. H. “Antediluvian Cities,” JCS 23 (1970-71)) 57-67.

Hamilton, Victor P. The Book Of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990).

_________, Handbook On The Pentateuch (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005)

Hoffmeier, James K.; Wenham, Gordon J., Sparks; Kenton L. Genesis: History, Fiction, Or Neither? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015).

Jackson, Wayne. Abraham – “A Case of Old Testament Accuracy.” Christian Courier

Kikawada, I. and A. Quinn. Before Abraham Was: The Unity of Genesis 1-11 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1985).

Kitchen, K. A. On The Reliability Of The Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).

_______, Ancient Orient And Old Testament (Illinois: IVP, 1966).

_______, The Bible In Its World (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 1977).

_______, “The Old Testament in its Context” TSF Bulletin 59 (1971) 2-10.

Leithart, Peter J. “The Abraham Myth” First Things

Longman III, Tremper. The Story of God Bible Commentary Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016).

Lorey, F. 1997 The Flood of Noah and the Flood of Gilgamesh. Acts and facts. 26 (3)

Millard, A. R, and D. J. Wiseman, (eds) Essays on the Pentateuchal Narratives (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbraums, 1983).

Mathews, Kenneth A. The New American Commentary Genesis 1-11:26 Vol. 1A (Nashville: B&H, 1996).

_________, The New American Commentary Genesis 11:27-50:26 Vol. 1B (Nashville: B&H, 2005).

Ross, Allen P. Creation And Blessing (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998).

Sarfari, Jonathan. Noah’s Flood and the Gilgamesh Epic.

Sarna, Nahum M. Understanding Genesis (New York: Schocken, 1970).

Van Pelt, Miles V. (Ed.) A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament (Illinois: Crossway, 2016).

Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001).

_______, An Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007)

Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 1-15 Word Biblical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987).

________, Exploring The Old Testament: A Guide To The Pentateuch (Downers Grove: IVP, 2003).

Wikipedia “Gilgamesh Flood Myth”

Wiseman, Donald J. “Abraham in History and Tradition Part I” Bibliotheca Sacra (April-June 1977) 123-30

_________, “Abraham in History and Tradition Parts” Bibliotheca Sacra 135 (July-Sept. 1977) 228-37

Young, Davis A. “The Discovery of Terrestrial History,” in Portraits of Creation H. J. Van Till, et al (eds). (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990).

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