Thursday, May 04, 2006

Adam's Genealogies

Genealogies are pretty boring to the casual reader of the Bible, but scholars consider them juicy material for study. The following discussion will be about the genealogies of Cain (Gen. 4:16-24) and Seth (Gen. 5:1-32). Critics point out that the similarities between those two lists are very suspicious. Compare the names from Cain's and Seth's families:

  1. Adam
  2. Cain
  3. Enoch (Chanoch)
  4. Irad
  5. Mehujael
  6. Methushael
  7. Lamech
  8. Jabal, Jubal, Tubal-cain

  1. Enosh
  2. Kenan
  3. Mahalalel
  4. Jared
  5. Enoch (Chanoch)
  6. Methuselah
  7. Lamech
  8. Noah
  9. Shem, Ham, Japhet
The following similarities jump out at you when you compare the genealogies in this fashion:
  1. Adam and Enosh are homonyms, both meaning "man"
  2. Cain and Kenan are almost the exactly same name (the only difference in Hebrew is a "final nun" on Kenan)
  3. Enoch is number 3 in Cain's list and number 5 in Seth's list
  4. Irad and Jared are very similar names
  5. Mehujael (#5 in Cain's list) is very similar to Mehalalel (#3 in Seth's list)
  6. Methushael and Methuselah are very similar names
  7. Lamech is #7 on both lists
  8. Lamech had three sons who are listed, as did Noah
How can these two lists be so similar? Source critics suggest that the most plausible explanation is that these are really two versions of the same list that became somewhat corrupted over time and were both included in their corrupt forms by the redactor. Richard Elliott Friedman writes (The Bible with Sources Revealed, p. 40n):
The two genealogical lists, one from J and one from the Book of Records, have some names that are the same or similar and others that are different, perhaps indicating a common, more ancient source...
Prof. Umberto Caussuto was, to my knowledge, the first to counter this argument by highlighting the differences between the two lists to show that they are not the same. This was significantly refined by David Sykes in his unpublished 1985 doctoral dissertation Patterns in Genesis, and R. Hayyim Angel, in his recently published Through an Opaque Lens, briefly suggests how these genealogies advance the plot of the larger section of the text. All of this to come in the next post on this subject.

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