The Primeval History:
Genesis 1-11 and it's Theme
Old Testament & Its Context RS2003A
Dr. Stephen Dempster
December 1, 2011
Genesis 1-11, also known as Primeval History is the recorded text of the original creation of the earth, and all that we have.[i] Genesis 1-11 begins with the creation, followed by the fall, the story of Cain and Abel, the story of Noah and his sons, followed by the flood, then the tower of Babel, and ending with the line leading up to Abram/Abraham[ii]. These events in Genesis show an interesting chain of events. From a fall and expulsion from the garden, to a fruitful filling of the world, to a flood that destroys all except for Noah, then to a renewed world, and then to a spread all across the earth. One must wonder what exactly this structure of events represents, and what the theme, or themes of this history are exactly. There does seem to be a significant amount of underlying themes in these passages. Who is the speaker in Genesis 1-11
The written literature of Genesis 1-11 portrays very effectively the theological symbolic way that the biblical authors express themselves.[iii] The bulk of most of the literature in Genesis 1-11 is assumed to be a cycle of tales that are presented either orally, or written by a Yahwist author, which is a biblical anonymous author. It is assumed that most of the primeval history is written by a Yahwist author, but some scholars tell you that it was Moses.[iv] The Yahwist literature in Genesis 1-11 accounts for the creation of the generic man, Adam and Eve in the garden, Cain and Abel, the flood, Noah and his family, and lastly the separation of man at the Tower of Babel. However the non-Yahwist literature recorded in Genesis 2-11, account for the cosmic creation (Genesis 1:1-2), the genealogy of Seth (Genesis 5:1-32), portions of the flood narrative (Genesis 6-8), and other minor genealogical information (Genesis 9:1-15).[v] In an attempt to understand the narration in Genesis 1-11 some similarities are made when contrasting Yahwist narrations, and non-Yahwist narrations. Most similarities are seen between the narratives of Noah and Adam (Some three way similarities are noticed with Cain as well). The first of these was that Adam was born from the ground, Cain worked the ground, and Noah brought the land relief; animals were in Eden and the ark; animals and people were secure in the ark and in Eden; Adam lived with animals, Noah was allowed to eat them; Adam ate the forbidden fruit, Cain produced grain, and Noah ate from his vineyard; Noah lost knowledge through drunkness, Cain denied the knowledge of Abel; both Noah, and Adam made decisions that led to trouble (wine, and forbidden fruit); in both accounts of the Garden, and at Babel God came down to deal with the sinners; Adam and Noah were both instructed by God to increase the population; lastly “God feared the line between human and divine would be blurred (Genesis 2:22-24, 11:6).”[vi] Through the in-depth look of both parallels many assumptions and connections can be produced. The fear of the lose of distinction between human and divine presented in the parallels by theologians, did arise three times. Firstly God feared that humans would become “like us” in knowledge and immortality (Genesis 3:22). This idea that God held fear of humans become “like us”, or godly seems kind of hard to believe, as no human can ever become like God. Secondly God feared the “semi-divine beings”, and that through this semi-divinity that nothing would become impossible for us (Genesis 6:1-4, 11:6). Due to this fear God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and at the Tower of Babel he confused the tongue, and spread the population out over all the earth (Genesis 3:23-24, 6:3, 11:7-9). Secondly God destroyed all the earth with the flood, then the third time God decided to be tolerant of the sinful nature of humans, and let them build up their own civilizations. Through this chain of events the...
Bibliography: Clines, J.A. David. “The Significance of the 'sons of God ' Episode,” Department of Biblical Studies, no.13 (1979):33-46.
Clines, J.A. David. “Theme in Genesis 1-11,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 38, no. 4 (1976): 483-507.
Constable L. Thomas. “Notes on Genesis,” (2010): 1-318. www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/genesis.pdf
Major, J. Trevor.“The Meaning of 'Sons of God ' In Genesis 6:1-4,” Apologetics Press, (2011): 1-11.
How it all Began: Genesis 1-11 (2001). 1-154. http://www.ibiblio.org/freebiblecomentary/pdf/EN/VOL01AOT.pdf
Reed A.Y. “The Primeval History: Genesis 1-11,” Five Books of Moses, September 22, 2004: 1-2.
Smith, Gary. “Structure and Purpose in Genesis 1-11,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, (1980):207-319.
Wenham, Gordon. “Original Sin in Genesis 1-11,” Churchman, 104, no. 4 (1990): 1-23
[ i ]. How it all Began: Genesis 1-11 (2001). 1-154.
[ ii ]. A.Y. Reed., “The Primeval History: Genesis 1-11,” Five Books of Moses, September 22, 2004: 1-2.
[ iii ]. Robert Karl Gnuse.,”A Process Theological Interpretation of The Primeval in Genesis 2-11,” Horizons 29, no. 1 (2002): 23-41.
[ viii ]. Hulisani Ramantswana., “God Saw That it Was Good, Not Perfect: A Canonical-Dialogic Reading of Genesis 1-3,” Westminster Theological Journal, (2010): 433-434
[ ix ]
[ xi ]. Gordon Wenham., “Original Sin in Genesis 1-11,” Churchman, 104, no. 4 (1990): 1-23
[ xii ]
[ xvi ]. Gary V. Smith., “Structure and Purpose in Genesis 1-11,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, (1980):207-319.
[ xvii ]. Trevor J. Major., “The Meaning of 'Sons of God ' In Genesis 6:1-4,” Apologetics Press, (2011): 1-11.
[ xviii ]. David J.A. Clines., “The Significance of the 'sons of God ' Episode,” Department of Biblical Studies, no. 13 (1979): 33-46.
[ xxii ]. David J.A.Clines., “Theme in Genesis 1-11,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 38, no. 4 (1976): 483-507.
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