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).

48. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Shaddai

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) http://www.joeledmundanderson.com/understanding-genesis-6-8-the-story-of-noahs-flood-and-its-similarities-and-differences-with-gilgamesh/

_________, The Genre, Historical Context, and Purpose of Genesis 1-11 (Aug., 3, 2017) http://www.joeledmundanderson.com/the-genre-historical-context-and-purpose-of-genesis-1-11/

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 https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/241-abraham-a-case-of-old-testament-accuracy

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 https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/07/the-abraham-myth#print

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) https://www.icr.org/article/noah-flood-gilgamesh/

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. https://creation.com/noahs-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” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgamesh_flood_myth

Wiseman, Donald J. “Abraham in History and Tradition Part I” Bibliotheca Sacra (April-June 1977) 123-30 https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Wiseman-AbrahamHebrew-BSac.pdf

_________, “Abraham in History and Tradition Parts” Bibliotheca Sacra 135 (July-Sept. 1977) 228-37http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Wiseman-AbrahamPrince-BSac.htm

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

Bearing True Witness.

Bearing True Witness.

Jesus, it will be noted, does not strictly follow the sequence of the commandments related to human society in ‘the sermon on the mount’. Perhaps he sought simply to address some gross abuses. At Matthew 5:21-26 he expanded on the sixth commandment, and at 27-32 on the seventh. He skips the eighth on stealing, and instead moves on to the ninth, which even though he does not quote directly, it is clear that he is referring to it. Many assume that the command is equivalent to saying ‘You shall not lie’, but in fact this is not what it says. The command is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour” (Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20).

Later in the law code in Exodus, Moses elaborates on what this command really means. “You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. You shall not show partiality to a poor man in dispute” (23:1-3) To bear witness was to testify in a dispute, with the ultimate case being as a witness in a capital offence. In the second giving of the law, wherein the commandments are repeated as a second witness, we have the code law requiring two or three for capital offences at 17:6 and 19:15.

The writer to the Hebrews lends his witness in this regard (10:28). This is also what is no doubt behind Jesus’ instructions in resolving disputes at Matthew 18:16, and Paul’s warning not to accept a charge against an elder from only one witness at (I Tim. 5:19). However one understands I John 5:8, it seems clear that this principle is behind this statement also. Jesus even said that if he alone bore witness to himself, because it was only one person, it would not be true (Jn. 5:31). Jesus was indeed the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6), but when it came to bearing witness or testimony, it was necessary that he have at least one other, who in his case was the Father (Jn. 5:32, 37; 8:18).

It would not have been appropriate for Jesus to accept the testimony from men as adequate, even though many did (Jn. 5:34). He also had the testimony of the Spirit, as the One who inspired the biblical canonical writers, for Jesus also said that they testified to him (Jn. 5:39). Later in John Jesus would reiterate this principle. “And yet if I do judge, My judgement is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me” (8:16). Then we have from Jesus another reiteration of the code law on witnesses. “It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me” (v. 17).

Jesus was God, and the truth himself as he said, so even if he alone bore witness to himself that witness per se would be true (Jn. 8:14). However, the fact is the triune God decided that in testifying to the truth there would be one or two witnesses, in this case divine. This is also an important biblical hermeneutic to bear in mind. God could indeed state something once and this would be enough, but the fact is whether it was in testing the prophets by the prophetic word already given, or referring to two or three biblical witnesses to prove a point, the biblical writers followed this principle.

As Paul stated when he quoted the code law at II Corinthians 13:1, “This will be the third time I am coming to you. ‘By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established’.” In returning to Matthew 5:33-37, we find Jesus elaborating on the issue of oath taking, because this was in fact what took place when one bore witness in matters of life and death. As noted already, Jesus did not refer to the commandment directly, but he did refer to the civil law code. In keeping with what has just been stated with regard to two or three witnesses, we find these references at Leviticus 19:12 and Deuteronomy 23:23.

These verses command us to keep and perform that which we have committed ourselves to with our testimony. We are not to cease to keep our word, nor are we to fail to perform it. What these references also demonstrate is that one should not be hard and fast in dividing the ten commands between what applies to God and what applies to one’s neighbour, for the point that Jesus is also making is that this is also an oath taken in God’s presence. Some hoped to add weight, so to speak, to their oath taking, by referring to the things which Jesus’ mentions. As John Murray pointed out in his ‘Principles Of Conduct’, this was disingenuous.

People would refer to the things mentioned by Jesus in what can only be described as the art of equivocal speech (v. 34-35). People knew that they meant to refer to God, but they hedged their bets by not wanting to possibly take the name of the LORD in vain. Here is where we have a conflating with the third commandment (Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). It is not even up to us to make one of our hairs black or white, such is the surety we cannot give ourselves in our oath taking (v. 36). For us, it is enough to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as our oath before God and others. It remains for us then to keep and perform our word (v. 37).

John Murray On Hermeneutics, The Law, And Coherence.

An entire book could be written on the issue of hermeneutics and the law, namely the various ways which scholars, including especially the reformed, argue for the abrogation of the case laws or civil code which applies the decalogue. This activity took on increased activity with especially with Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s ‘Theonomy in Christian Ethics’. http://www.exodusbooks.com/Samples/CMF/3785TOC.pdf (Contents abstract only). Dr. Bahnsen has never been challenged directly in this work, namely because it is a perfect example of applying established principles of biblical interpretation. However, the seeds of opposition were planted long before his work.

If one were to choose a trusted voice to lean on for an argument against the continuation of the civil code, there is hardly any more orthodox than Dr. John Murray. Murray was highly esteemed by Bahnsen, and indeed anybody who is anybody in the Reformed Presbyterian community knows of the immense contributions of Murray. Furthermore, he wrote what J. I. Packer called his “masterpiece”, namely his ‘Principles Of Conduct’. Referring to the classic passage which formed the main focus of Bahnsen’s work, he wrote the following. In referring to Matthew 5:17 Murray wrote, “The meaning of ‘destroy’ is not to break or transgress but to dissolve. It is similar to our English word ‘abrogate’ or, as in Wiclif’s translation, ‘undo’. Jesus says that he did not come to abrogate the law or the prophets” (149).

The above statement makes the following one all the more puzzling. “Our Lord instituted divorce as the proper recourse for the innocent spouse who had been wronged by adultery on the part of the other. By implication our Lord abrogated the death penalty for adultery. But in the abolition of the death penalty the sin of adultery is not relieved of any of its heinousness as a violation of God’s law. It is precisely because the spirituality of the law and the wickedness of its violation are more fully revealed that the abrogation of the penal sanction takes place” (54-55). At this point Murray directs the reader to refer to his earlier work on divorce (1953), and it is by far one of the best treatments on the subject. However, the above quote needs some scrutiny.

Firstly, one cannot escape Murray’s lack of coherence in his treatment of the law, ethics, and hermeneutics. He later goes on to agree with Jesus that he came not to abrogate any of the law, and yet here he states the exact opposite! Murray even argues that Jesus did not abrogate the ceremonial or ritual laws, but only that we “discontinue the observance of the rites and ceremonies of the old economy” (150). On this point he is to be applauded. Again, “Jesus is saying that he came not to abrogate any part of the Mosaic law” (150). Secondly, this contradiction on Murray’s part is justified by what can only be described as a “pietistic spirituality hermenuetic”.

Murray seems to suggest that because Jesus taught that divorce was an acceptable response to adultery within the church, that this somehow brings out some kind of “spirituality of the law and the wickedness of its violation,” which justifies the supposed abrogation of the penal sanction in the civil sphere. So simply divorcing someone is somehow more demonstrative of the wickedness of adultery than is the penal sanction! One imagines that the guilty party would beg to disagree! This is a conception of “spirituality” which is unbecoming of a man of Murray’s stature, and a cop out frankly. Another book could be written on the manifold understandings of “spirituality” which don’t line up with the scriptural evidence.

Thirdly, there is an even more fundamental hermeneutical flaw which occurs with Murray which precedes this bizarre interpretation. After demonstrating that the NT in fact appeals to the OT civil code with respect to consanguinity and affinity (49ff), he then goes on to argue that because Jesus taught that divorce was allowed for adultery, this somehow is interpreted by him to mean a replacement of the penal sanction, about which Jesus was silent. In any other case, such as the inclusion of infants in the covenant, Murray would have argued that everything continues which has not been specifically changed in the N.T. Instead, he argues from silence that Jesus is teaching that divorce within the church somehow replaces a penal sanction of a state’s civil code.

There would be, and there are in fact are many examples of where these kind of hermeneutics lead people astray. In actual fact, it is the basic presupposition of opposition to the civil administration which has led otherwise orthodox people to reverting to hermeneutical principles which they would otherwise refute. One can only look at the two kingdom theology of men like Horton and Escondido, to see how far some will go. It saddens me to find this in Murray, and I certainly don’t want anyone to avoid his work, but on these points I must beg to differ. If there is one thing which ought to characterize the Biblical Christian worldview, and indeed any worldview, it must be coherence, and on this score Murray and those who follow his hermeneutics on this point, do not cohere.

 

The Tithe And Taxes And The Politics Of Envy And Theft.

The Tithe And Taxes And The Politics Of Envy And Theft.

The law commands us to tithe a tenth (‘Tithe’ meaning a tenth. Dt. 14:22ff. Cf. Gen. 14:20; 28:22; Lev. 27:32), but there isn’t a gov’t in the world that isn’t guilty of envy and theft, along with those who put them in office. It isn’t enough that the tenth of the rich is more than a tenth from the poor, these governments and those who put them in power, think themselves more just and holy than God himself. The presumption is that the distinction between the rich and the poor is unjust. Any government practicing such evil is nothing short of an idol, the expression of a people guilty of envy and theft, placing government above God, and making the whole of a nation cursed for idolatry.

The Conscience.

The Conscience.

Strong’s defines the word ‘suneidesis’ as moral consciousness, or co-perception. Wikipedia defines it as “an aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment that assists in distinguishing right from wrong.” It is that which provides an internal conviction that one is right or wrong. Those who brought before Jesus the issue of a woman caught in adultery, were each one convicted in their consciences that they were also complicit with her (Jn. 8:9). Some are in fact guilty of desensitizing their consciences-“seared with a hot iron” (I Tim. 4:2). They have defiled themselves (Titus 1:15). On the other hand, Paul testified before the Sanhedrin council that he had “lived in all good conscience before God” (Acts 23:1). We, like Paul, must always “strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16 Cf. Rom. 9:1; 13:5; II Cor. 1:12; 4:2; 5:11; I Tim. 1:5; 3:9; II Tim. 1:3; Heb. 13:18; I Pet. 2:19; 3:16). Christ alone can purge our consciences “from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14; 10:22).

The conscience is also intimately related to the heart. Paul in fact appealed to this relationship, in his apologetic approach in his letter to Romans. Speaking of Gentiles he wrote that they “show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them” (2:15 I Tim. 1:19; Heb. 9:9; 10:2). On the other hand, those who are “weak” in the faith, do not have a solid or deep understanding of the word, so their consciences are bound by manmade traditions of prohibition (I Cor. 8:7, 10). On the other hand, the strong have a clear conscience, in this case over the question of food that may have been offered to an idol, because they have a better, more thorough, and deeper understanding of the word (I Cor. 10:25, 27-28). The conscience of the weak should not bind that of the strong (I Cor. 10:29). We have “(the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 3:21). This is our justification.

Love-Phileo And Agape.

Love-Phileo And Agape.

The N.T. contains a couple of Greek words that in English are translated as love. A good place to go is where we find more than one of these Greek words used in the same context. For example, this difference is brought out most significantly in a passage that concerns Peter, in John’s epistle. Near the end of his epistle, John records the following conversation with Peter. Jesus asked Peter if he had ‘agapas’ for him. Peter responds by saying he had ‘philo’ or brotherly love for him. Again Jesus asks Peter if he had agapas for him, and again Peter says that he had philo for him. Then after giving him an example of agapas, namely to shepherd his sheep, he then asks Peter if he had phileis for him. We then read that Peter is grieved by this, and he then says again, “you know I philo you” (v. 17). Agape love is something more than phileo.

Then in his first letter Peter uses both ‘philadelphian’ or brotherly love, and ‘agapesate’ at 1:22, and it also emphasizes this distinction. “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love (philadelphian) of the brethren, love (agapesate) one another fervently with a pure heart. As Peter began the work of feeding Christ’s sheep, Peter came to understand what it meant to have ‘agapate’ for him (1:8). Agape involves sacrifice. He later says that we must have ‘agapesate’ for the brotherhood (2:17). Interestingly he also refers later to what appears to be a poem or hymnal abstract when he talked about those who ‘agapan’ life (3:10). Paul also made this point. “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to ’agapen’one another” (I Th. 4:9).

There are more occurrences in John’s first letter than in any other book. When the apostle John wrote that we should not love the world (that is, the kosmos, or the whole created order), he uses the word agape. The reason we are not to agape the kosmos is because agape is reserved for our relationship with the Him. To agape the kosmos is to make an idol out of what the Creator has made. However, we are to have agape for his church, because it is agape that we share with Him. This ‘agape(s)’ is in Christ Jesus (I Tim. 1:14; II Tim. 1:13). ‘Agapev’ is what the man of God must pursue (6:11). ‘Agapes’ is what we have been given, along with power and self-control (II Tim. 1:7). Husbands are to have ‘agapate’ for their wives (Eph. 5:25), but wives are to ‘philandrous’ their husbands (Titus 2:4). Phileo is affection, agape is sacrifice.

John, in recording Jesus’ words to the church at Ephesus, criticizes them that they had left their first ‘agapev’ (2:4), and it is this ‘agapen’ that the church in Thyatira is commended for (3:19). Jude prays that ‘agapen’ along with mercy and peace, might be multiplied for his audience and us (Cf. II Jn. 3). He also exhorts them to keep themselves in this ‘agape’ (v. 21). Endurance and sacrifice is what James refers to in his reference to ‘agaposiv’ (1:12). This is also what characterizes the believer’s relationship to God (2:5). ‘Agapeseis’ also characterizes what we are to have for our neighbour (2:8). This also is emphasized by Paul in his letter to Philemon (vv. 5, 7). However, there are more occurrences of agape in John’s letters than the rest of the NT put together, not including its occurrence in Revelation and his gospel.

John’s references in his letters to agape begins with I Jn. 2:5 where the agape of God is perfected in those who keep his word. Agappate is what we are not to have for the kosmos (2:15). The agapen of the Father is seen in that we are called his children (3:1). Again, it is agapomen that we should have for one another in his family (3:11 Cf. vv. 14). He then gives the best definition and understanding of agapnv we will find. “By this we know agapnv, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (3:16 Cf. v. 17-18, 23; 4:7-12, 16-21; 5:2-3; II Jn. 1, 5-6; III Jn. 1). Agape is something only made possible among humanity, because God had agape for his people, seen most clearly in the sending and sacrifice of His Son.

Teknia And Paidia.

Teknia And Paidia.

In the new testament there are two words that are both translated as children or little children-these are teknia and paidia. Teknia, tekna, and others of this kind, refers to offspring, infants, and young children transitioning from the former. Paidia, on the other hand, always refers to children in training. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in their gospels, only refer to paidia (Mt. 2:16; 11:16; 14:21; 15:38; 18:3; 19:13; 21:15; Mk. 9:37; 10:13-14; Lk. 7:32; 11:7; 18:16), although Luke in Acts also refers to tekna (2:39; 13:33; 21:5, 21). However, the apostle John in his gospel does refer to both, and in doing so we can see the above distinction. The following refer to tekna or offspring (8:39; 11:52; 13:33), but 21:5 refers to paidia, children who could answer Jesus’ question.

In his letters, John also uses both words, and in doing so he makes this distinction even clearer. There are several references to teknia in these letters, and they all refer to the definition above (I Jn. 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 10, 18; 4:4; 5:2, 21; II Jn. 1, 4, 13; III Jn. 4), as also Revelation 2:23. However, where he does use paidia he uses it to make the above specific point-that it refers to further training (I Jn. 2:13 and 18). At 2:12 he refers to teknia, to those of his hearers and readers who have been introduced to the very basics of the faith, as it were-that their sins are forgiven them on account of his name. On the other hand, in the next verse he refers to paidia who have come to know the Father in a deeper way through their training. Similarly, what he says with regard to “the last hour,” is also intended for those who are at least paidia.

Paul also makes this distinction. His use of paidia in I Corinthians 14:20 is a case in point. Paul did not want his audience to be immature or untrained in the renewing of their minds, as it were, but in the area of sin he did not want them to be trained or skilled in doing evil. When it comes to Paul’s use of teknia in this same letter, he says in 7:14 that infants (tekna) born to a believing parent are to be regarded as holy, a condition which is not dependent on the level of training, or paidia. This is also why Paul pleads with the Corinthians as teknois in II Corinthians 6:13, because he was writing to people for whom he was their spiritual father. He reiterates this use of tekna and teknois and the parent -infant or little child relationship in 12:14 (Cf. Col. 3:20-21; I Th. 2:7, 11; I Tim. 3:4, 12; 5:4, 10, 14; Titus 1:6).

Paul also refers to the Galatians as teknia, or those he has given birth to (4:19). He also refers to Hagar’s offspring as teknon (4:25), the tekna or offspring of the desolate woman (4:27). Whereas Isaac is the tekna of promise (4:28). Finally, Paul says that we are tekna or offspring of the free woman, and not paidiskeis (of padia), or trained to be children of the slave woman (4:31). Believers were once only tekna of wrath, but we have been made tekna of light, called (like infants do) to imitate God (Eph. 5:1, 8). When tekna is used of young children being trained there is always an accompanying word, an adjective in our English translation. So in Peter’s letters we are called to be “obedient tekna” (I Pet. 1:14), and not “accursed tekna, trained in covetous practices” (II Pet. 2:14).

Similarly, when Luke records Peter preaching at Pentecost, he records him as saying that the promise of the covenant is also to the offspring (teknois) of his hearers (Acts 2:39 Cf. 21:5, 21), and Paul regarded himself and the true followers of the Way, as the true offspring (teknois) of the Fathers (13:33). Also, the writer to the Hebrews speaks of us not as the offspring or tekna of Jesus, but as the Father’s paidia whom he has given to the Son. We are those, to use an expression familiar to the puritans, who are ‘Learning in Christ’s School’ (Ralph Venning, The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1999). It was in fact Venning’s thesis that the apostle John and others, employed the distinction between babes, young children, young men, and fathers, to refer to the progress we all make in our spiritual maturity or discipleship.

Thoughts On Leadership.

Thoughts On Leadership.

The current competition to be the president of the United States has been an excellent opportunity to reflect upon the topic of leadership. Even though I am a Canadian, my outsider status may give me an insight which could escape my American friends. Watching the debates etc., has certainly caused me to reflect on the recent Canadian Federal election campaign as well-something which I know escapes my American friends. Many have opined that governors have experience which a senator does not have. I can certainly understand this. Up until I became a supervisor I was simply a plant operator/mechanic who my supervisor might consult when making a decision or not, but in the end the responsibility was his. Not to diminish my own responsibilities in my own sphere, but it is different. Having to take responsibility, not only for my own actions, but also the actions of my crew, both reveals and changes a person, it really does. I choose to consult others, in most cases, before I make a decision. But my crew knows that I own the decisions and assume complete responsibility for them. Only if a supervisor does this will he or she get input and cooperation, and it ends up making for the best decisions.

Like it or not, senators do not carry the same responsibility as a governor. I do not have the luxury of not voicing my opinion or the requirement to back up that opinion with decisive action. I once had a woman tell me that her parents did not make a decision unless they could both agree. This reveals the naivete, in her case, of feminism. No decision is a decision. In the real world people and processes continue to roll along like a never-ending stream-either navigate your way through or be shipwrecked. It really is both that simple and that complicated, stressful, and hard. Most of us who are honest will admit to making mistakes along the way, and we need to own these as well. People will still follow a leader who admits their mistakes if they will own them, learn from them, and please please move on! Don’t dwell endlessly on your mistakes and please don’t do so with me. Having said that, it does strike me that many consider a job, any job, outside of politics as the only qualification for the office of national leader. Being a member of congress or parliament is a real job, and it is an insult to this very valuable work to state otherwise.

However, it does seem to be the case that the job of a senator can be what one makes of it. One can choose to show up for a vote or not. Whether as a member of parliament or congress one responds to the needs of their constituents will certainly affect their future, unless of course it is the Canadian senate, but that is a whole other topic. But I would certainly not consider as a power engineer operator someone who only had on their resume that he was the Prime Minister of Canada. He is not qualified for the job. Why then would the public consider the power engineer operator to be more qualified, per se, than a senator who at least has some legislative experience, as well as the duty of representing or not his or her constituents? A man who has run a business but answers to no one but himself is perhaps the least qualified to represent all the citizens of a nation. How many times has the church appointed as ruling elders those who were business men who bring their arrogance to the servant role of the church elder. Many such men consider it a weakness to suggest they are called to serve.

Jesus made clear that there are men who aspire to leadership positions for the stated reason of being then able to lord it over others. This is not to be the model of the Christian leader anywhere-in business, politics, the family, or the church (Mt. 20:25-28)! Someone who says “I am the greatest,” is probably not, at least by Christ’s standard. There are many men and women in positions of leadership in society who take greater pleasure in saying “your opinion matters,” than in saying “Your fired!” Making deals is about respecting the opinion of others, not sucking up or berating others just to get your own way. To bring this to more specifics on the presidential race, if not obvious from the above, I would suggest that Mr. Trump would be the worst candidate from among the republican crowd. It is impossible to serve with a self-important narcissitic egotistical unrepentant hypocrite. One cannot say the things he has said and not see the need to repent all the while calling out others for perceived errors. Add to this his unwillingness to state his positions should give the voters further pause-independent perhaps, conservative-no.

The Two Become One.

The Two Become One.

Recently I had a discussion with a friend about what it means and doesn’t mean that a married couple become one. Like most important subjects we can go back to the original creation record for answers. God created humanity, male and female, to be His image bearers. “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness’” (1:26). Right in this beginning chapter of the bible we are told that God is both one and many. As we go throughout scripture and the confessions we understand that God is one in essence yet three in persons-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are to understand among other things, that part of the “likeness” we share and the ability we are given to be His image bearers, is that we are created as social beings-just like the Trinity, and it was never good for us to be alone (2:18).

However, like the Trinity we also maintain our separate and unique personages. As we continue to read on in the Genesis account we read that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (3:24). ‘One flesh’ does not mean one person, just as the Father-Son-and Holy spirit are one in essence but three separate persons. One often hears a spouse say, usually the husband, that their spouse is their “better half.” This is a completely unbiblical and dangerous notion. Many married people complain that they have lost themselves in their spouse. This would be less likely to happen if they had a truly biblical conception of personhood. Even God when He saves us does not change the essential and unique person whom He formed in our mother’s womb, every bit as unique as our DNA.

The essential thing from the above quotation is that they are to leave their parents behind as far as being a new entity and unique standing before God and the world. This is a good corrective to some parents who feel the need to continue to meddle or take sides in the affairs of their married children. They also become one flesh, and it is this oneness which they do not share with any others. I was once asked by someone who was actually speaking more for his wife and who really wanted to trap me, that if I felt that a husband owns his wife-given my biblical conception of the marriage roles. He was shocked at first and then resigned that perhaps his wife’s suspicious were correct when I said that-“yes, he owns her.” But I also added that she also owns him, as Paul made abundantly clear in regard to their flesh (I Cor. 7:4).

Who’s Your Best Friend?

Who’s Your Best Friend?

Ever since I became a Christian over 30 years ago I have had occasion to think about this question. As I have thought about my singleness and the possibility of marriage, I have thought about it even more. Having revisited my alma mater in the last few days, and having graduated from my undergrad 30 years ago, it made me reflect on a lot of things, this area being one of them. The last couple of days in particular have really focused my attention, with a close friend having just got married, and them exiting from my life as a result. It is odd that in many ways, when people get married they become the most anti-social people in the world. The initial days of one’s marriage make this somewhat understandable, even though some people remain this way, and their spouses are the extent of their “social” life at any meaningful level.

However, my question really aims to go much deeper than this, and I am more surprised at myself that it has taken me so long to crystalize my thoughts on this subject. Many Christians say that one’s spouse must be their best friend-and they claim this for themselves, and in many ways as a clue to why they are still together. I understand what they are getting at. Romantic emotional commitment to someone other than one’s spouse is often the first step of infidelity. However, I do believe that what the scriptures teach also guards against this evil. I believe that the LORD of the covenant is asking us to, among other things, make Him our best friend. The LORD will not be satisfied unless we are wholly committed to Him with our whole persons-including our emotional life.

When Eve presented the forbidden fruit to Adam-who was his best friend? When Job’s wife told him to curse his God-who was his best friend? When Caleb and Joshua came back from spying out the land-who was their best friend? When Rahab hid the spies and sent them away safely-who was her best friend? When Ruth followed Naomi-who was Ruth’s friend? No doubt Orpah was also Naomi’s friend-but this was not enough for her to follow. When Samson divulged the secret of his strength-who was his best friend? When he finally came to his senses-who was finally his best friend? When Jesus cried out “My God My God, why have you forsaken me!” Who was His best friend? When He ascended to the Father-who was still His best friend? When a family member or friend finds out that their spouse has cheated on them and remains unrepentant-who is their best friend?