Curious what theologians throughout history made of Genesis 10

(Jeremy Christian) #1

Continuing the discussion from Curious what theologians throughout history made of Genesis 4:

Genesis 10:6 - The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan.

Genesis 10:10 - Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar.

Another example that I’m looking for the theological explanation for. Genesis 10.

Nimrod is Ham’s grandson. So Nimrod was the second generation after the flood, third generation from Noah himself. Yet right here it says these cities were the center of his kingdom. Depending on how you translate that, there’s either three or four cities listed here. The three recognizable ones are known to have been real cities that were all very large and highly populated.

I’m not looking to criticize theologians. I just want to understand. For centuries, all the great minds who have studied these texts, how did they reconcile this? Two generations after the human population on the entire planet was reduced to eight people. Four mating pairs. Yet two generations later there are, not just one, but three or four cities?

This simply does not work in a global flood interpretation. Help me understand how the idea of a global flood remained for so long?

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #2

Good question for @jongarvey.

(Retired Professor & Minister.) #3

Long ago when I was a Young Earth Creationist, I was actually quite frustrated that very few commentators were aggressively dealing with this issue. (Looking back—though my memories are not always as accurate as they used to be—I can’t recall finding much insightful help in the theological literature. And I don’t remember my OT professors saying much about it.)

Your question brings to mind a tangent that doesn’t merit its own thread so I will only briefly pause to mention it here: In retrospect, I’m somewhat surprised that “creation science” proponents of those days like Duane Gish, Henry Morris, and John Whitcomb didn’t resort to an additional version of the “things were different back then” by claiming that human females used to have far shorter gestation periods. Shorter pregnancies wouldn’t completely explain the generation span issues but it could explain how both pre-flood and post-flood human populations could have grown so rapidly and could have produced so many cities. (Yes, a 30 day human gestation period would create huge biological problems but that never stopped Gish, Morris, and Whitcomb on plenty of other scientific fronts were bombastic claims of “how things where different back then” abounded.)

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(George) #4


I haven’t been able to access your link to your “Followers” yet … but in the meantime, I thought I would give you this link… which essentially points out that the Table of Nations refers to cities that were best known in the last years of the 600’s BCE and the first years of the 500’s BCE…

This almost certainly dates Genesis 10 as a post-Exilic document:

Finkelstein and Silberman have noted that some sites appearing in the Book of Joshua came into existence only in the final decades of the 7th century BC, suggesting that the Primary History (Genesis- 2 Kings) is no older:

"This basic picture of the gradual accumulation of legends and stories- and their eventual incorporation into a single coherent saga with a definite theological outlook- was a product of that astonishingly creative period of literary production in the kingdom of Judah in the 7th century BCE . Perhaps most telling of all the clues that the book of Joshua was written at this time is the list of towns in the territory of the tribe of Judah, given in detail, in Joshua 15:21-62. The list precisely corresponds to the borders of the kingdom of Judah during the reign of Josiah. Moreover, the placenames mentioned in the list closely correspond to the 7th century BCE settlement

pattern in the same region. And some of the sites were occupied ONLY IN THE FINAL DECADES OF THE 7TH CENTURY BCE ."

(p. 92. “The Conquest of Canaan.” . Israel Finkelstein & Neil Asher Silberman. The Bible Unearthed, Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. New York. The Free Press. 2001)


It has been my experience in reading and studying various proposals for an Exodus and Conquest by others, that there is a serious methodological error which is repeated over and over again by many scholars in attempting to substantiate the biblical Exodus by identifying an archaeological context for this event (the gamut of proposals by amateurs as well as professionals runs from the Early Bronze to Early Iron Ages).

For any time period, Early Bronze through Iron Age, one can find cities, towns and hamlets that were not existence or were abandoned in contradiction to biblical Exodus and Conquest scenarios. Until a proposal can successfully account for ALL these archaeological anomalies (the non-existent or abandoned sites), the quest to find a time period to substantiate IN TOTO Holy Writ’s presentation of an Exodus and Conquest is doomed to failure.

07 April 2002 Update:

Over a year ago, 17 December 2000, I noted that as my Exodus research had revealed that NO time period, Early Bronze II through Iron I, were ALL the sites mentioned in the Exodus narratives in existence at the same time, consequently, it was my conclusion that the biblical account was fantasy.

Just a few days ago, 05 April 2002, I was musing upon this, when a thought struck me, what if there is a period in which ALL the sites are in existence at the same time? This time period might date the Exodus narratives! The ONLY time period that I hadn’t investigated was the Late Iron II, ca. 640-562 BC.

Just yesterday I had another re-read of Finkelstein and Silberman’s book The Bible Unearthed (2001) and discovered to my delight that they had evidently wondered the same thoughts and stated that the Exodus narratives were written IN the late 7th century BCE because this was the ONLY time period that witnessed “all the major sites” being in existence at the same time!

Finkelstein & Silberman:

"Sites mentioned in the Exodus narrative are real. A few were well known and apparently occupied in much earlier periods and much later periods- after the kingdom of Judah was established, when the text of the biblical

narrative was set down in writing for the first time. Unfortunately for those seeking a historical Exodus, they were UNOCCUPIED precisely at the time they reportedly played a role in the events of the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness…Lastly, ALL the major places that play a role in the story of the wandering of the Israelites were inhabitated in the 7th century; in some cases they were occupied ONLY at that time."

(pp. 64, 67, “Did the Exodus Happen ?” Israel Finkelstein & Neil Asher Silberman. The Bible Unearthed. 2001)

I have studied the Bible seeking the answers to its origins for some 30 years and have read many books and articles in Professional Journals, without a doubt, if I had to reccomend the single most important book on how

archaeology has solved the mystery of Israel’s origins and when the biblical texts were written, its Finkelstein’s and Silberman’s book, click this title to buy the book: The Bible Unearthed : Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts . Even the Skeptics need to read this book, to see why Critical scholarship is pretty much in agreement with them.

(Jeremy Christian) #5

I do think there is some merit to this. Places called by the names they were known by during the time of its writing. I do not think this approximate date based on these names is the origin of these writings. I think they existed for far longer. The updated names written in place of older not as well known titles in previous versions.

(George) #6


There’s one problem with that theory …
there is a broad pattern listing places and urban centers that weren’t occupied in the bronze age… and urban centers that were occupied in the bronze age that the Table of Nations don’t mention.

THIS is what I mean by your theories for how to explain the literature. More time reading archaeology and less time reading Blavatsky

(Jon Garvey) #7

I may not be the most dispassionate person to answer this, as in my forthcoming book I pick this story’s detail apart to show that the Bible writers are likely to have seen a process of infiltration of existing races in the Table of Nations, rather than populating an empty earth. I believe the text supports Genealogical Adam, or something like it (buy my book!).

But a few considerations:

  • We are at the tail end of the story of long patriarchal ages. So older commentators were thinking of extremely long lived generations producing many offspring, though the ages were coming down in the text. And remember, Christian commentators had no idea of the actual populations in the ANE at this time, which was pretty unknown to western history.

  • Likewise, for the same reasons, most of the actual cities, locations and sizes were unknown to them. As in the case of Cain, they had no cultural information on what scale of settlement constituted a city then.

  • Later on, commentators were aware that genealogies might have skipped generations, and that the ages might in some way be symbolic. This was sp[artly prompted by realising that the patriarchal ages led to some strange contemporaries, such as Methuselah outlasting the flood, and so on. Therefore, a healthy agnosticism about the exact meaning covered a number of sins.

  • It is only the Protestant tradition after 1500 that really matters here, as the Catholic and Orthodox branches were much less concerned with historical background, and more concerned with the spiritual meaning, allegorical application, etc. And the number of scholars digging deeply into chronology would always have been relatively few, then as now: everyone remembers James Ussher because he was a specialist defining the field. Maybe he, as a bright schoalr, offered something on it, but I’ve never read, or seen, his original work on chronology: that would be a good study for some historian of theology.

(Jeremy Christian) #8

I’ve heard all kinds of things of this sort in reference to these parts of the bible. I hadn’t heard this one in particular, but it’s along the same kind of lines of “things were different back then”.

That’s a good one. Even if that were possibly true, it’s still hard to work out how there’s 4 cities in 2 generations. I don’t know that I could breed cats or dogs that fast.

(Jeremy Christian) #9

Actually, according to my math, Methuselah dies the same year as the flood. That was always an interesting detail that stuck out to me.

I have heard the skipping generations concept, or that each name actually represents a clan/family/group and not an individual. That was always the most plausible sounding explanation.

I’m just not sure I’ve ever run across a consensus where scholars/theologians are concerned.

(Jeremy Christian) #10

In your opinion, would it be accurate to say that any research like this would seem a lack of faith or a way of putting God to the test that would cause those who might take on this kind of challenge to the traditional views to hesitate to pull too much on that kind of thread?

It makes me think of Copernicus, who had figured out that the sun was at the center of our planetary system, but hesitated to go public with it for fear of being deemed a heretic. I’ve been called a heretic a time or two for the stuff I say. Good thing they don’t burn you or incarcerate you for the rest of your natural life for that kind of thing anymore.

(George) #11


@Jeremy_Christian & @jongarvey

I thought I would do some math using the chart provided by Jeremy.


If we assume Young Earth Creation, the vertical red line is when Adam dies (around year 930 from the zero Year of Creation); in the graph, Adam is on the bottom, but in the table Adam is at the top of column [D].

The vertical blue line is the year of the Flood (blue for water!)… which happened the year of Methuselah’s death (about 1656 years after the first day of Creation, shown in column [D] ), at the age of 969 (shown in column [E] ).

Notice that except for Noah (and for Methuselah too, if he died because of the flood), all the first generations after Noah are dead before the Floor arrives. Not too shocking, right?

But let’s look at these life arcs from another perspective! How many years did these 7 generations know “Old Gampy” (their pet name for Adam growing up!)… before he died?!

How old were these men when Adam’s funeral was held?!

Now the tables are reversed… and Noah is the only person in my version of the chart who did not know the First Man Ever… and who lived 930 years!

Not only was Methuselah there for Noah’s birth, but he knew Noah for 600 years before the year of the flood (see column “H” )! Furthermore, Methuselah knew Gampy Adam for a real long time too!: 243 years before Adam’s passing in the year 930 BCE (see column “G” ).

Skipping over Enoch, who died at 365 yrs of age (having known Adam for 308 years!), next we have Jared: he knew Noah for 366 years … and Adam for 470 years.

Mahaleel knew Noah 234 years, and Adam 535 years!

That wild scamp, Cannan, knew Noah for 179 years, and Adam for 605 years!

Enos knew Noah for 84 years, and Adam for 695 years!

Seth, like Enoch, missed meeting Noah… by a mere 14 years… so I guess it wasn’t Seth who taught Noah how to navigate!! (The rumors were that Jared used to kid Noah that he couldn’t hit the broad side of a mountain with a cargo ship! Adam kept reminding Jared to say this to Noah after the Gampy Funeral … but Jared never really knew why! )

But doesn’t anybody think these numbers are strange? People knew and saw Adam and Eve, walking around, buying bagels, for hundreds of years. And they had almost as much time to tell Noah all about it. But it doesn’t seem like anyone ever did.

We know nothing of Adam’s personal habits (the rumor is he was constantly nibbling on fruit)!
We know nothing about what the family did for his funeral, or for Eve’s funeral. It is almost as if Adam and Eve, were figureheads… statues … not real people… I know, I know… hard to imagine!

But someone emailed me a photo believed to be from an archaeological site… it was marked ZED!

But the Aramaic carvings are confusing … carved at their feet their ages are texts saying “578 years old” and and “578 year old”, respectively! But, truth be told, they don’t look a day older than say 167 years … if they consistently laid out in the sun when ultraviolet was at its most intense!


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did Methuselah drown in the flood?

(George) #13

That’s what one movie shows…

I don’t know what the Rabbinical schools say about it…


He could have made it to a 1000 if it wasn’t for that flood.

(Jeremy Christian) #15

It would be almost too ironic if he didn’t.

(Jeremy Christian) #16

That’s really interesting. I had never worked out the ones who knew both Adam and Noah for such long periods of time.

It gets really interesting on the other side of the flood, if you’ll allow me …


The last of the long-living ancestors were still alive when Abraham died, including Shem, who was ON the ark.

In a populated world, there would have been an age when there were a number of people in the land who had lived there and looked the same age since your grandad was a boy.

One of the things that always peaked my interest in the Abraham stories was the mention of other gods worshiped by the people of his time. Well, those long living ancestors of Abraham’s would certainly seem god-like you’d think.

Makes sense to me in this context. Two lines. Mortal humans and Adam’s line. It actually makes a lot of sense. All the civilizations that existed in that time wrote all these crazy stories about these human-formed male/female gods that lived among them.

These include the gods it says the people from the land where Abraham’s father was from (Sumer) “beyond the river” worshiped.

(George) #17


Here are some sections from a paper discussing “angelization” of the great men of the Bible… from an Old Testament viewpoint… The writer ultimately contrasts these views with Irenaeus , but that’s for another day … I think it’s marvelous to consider the “angelization” side of things!

PHRONEMA, VOL. 34(1), 2019, 1-23
Irenaeus and Jewish Apocalyptic Traditions
by Lydia Gore-Jones

St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College
Abstract: In Book 5 of his Against Heresies (Adversus Haereses),
Irenaeus envisions an eschaton that coheres with the beginning of
creation and serves God’s purpose of perfecting man in His divine
dispensation. For this argument, Irenaeus cites extra-biblical
traditions about end times. His depiction of the earthly Messianic
Kingdom demonstrates striking similarities to the eschatological
visions in the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch (2 Baruch), a Jewish
apocalypse written around the end of the first century, thus indicating
shared traditions.

In this regard, Irenaeus is rather unique among early Church
Fathers. While others show influences of the strand
of Jewish apocalyptic tradition that features heavenly journeys,
spiritual ascents and angelic theoria…


“Jewish Apocalyptic Traditions
Firstly, it is necessary to delineate what is meant by Jewish ‘apocalyptic’
tradition. The adjective itself has often been employed ambiguously
to refer to a range of things, from literary genre, to socio-religious
movement, and eschatological worldview.5 Eschatological expectation
was a salient aspect of Second Temple Judaism, shared by diverse
socio-religious groups; yet not all of those holding an eschatological
worldview necessarily wrote apocalyptic literature. No known apocalypse,
for example, has been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls written by the
Qumran sect, who otherwise authored rule books, thanksgiving hymns
and biblical commentaries that portray a community with a strong
belief of living at end times.6 The eschatological worldview was also
held by the disciples of Jesus; yet apart from the Book of Revelation,
they wrote gospel books and letters, despite the many identifiable
‘apocalyptic’ features…”


"Along the line between the two sub-categories, two strands
of tradition may be identified: heavenly ascents and eschatological
descriptions. The former is represented by the heavenly journeys of
Enoch in parts of the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 12–16; 20–32)
and the Book of Parables (1 Enoch 39–56; 70–71). In these accounts,
the seer ascends to the heavenly throne room, has visions of God, visits
astronomical and celestial phenomena, and sees the places prepared for
both the righteous and sinners.11 The Enochic tradition is also the earliest
extant source that describes the activities and future punishments of the
fallen angels, as well as the names and functions of the archangels.

The list of the archangels are given either in a group of four
(Watchers, 1 Enoch 9;
Parables, 1 Enoch 40;
71) FN12 ; or
a group of seven (Watchers, 1 Enoch 20)." FN13

“Other heavenly hosts described are Cherubim, Seraphim,
Ophannim (wheels), Powers and Dominions (Parables, 1 Enoch 61).
Moreover, the one that ascends (Enoch in this case) is “transformed”
into one among the angels (1 Enoch 71:11). Human transformation into
angels is also attested in other pseudepigrapha.”

“In 2 Enoch, Enoch is not a mere visitor to the heavenly realm but was
transfigured as “one of his glorious ones” to stand “before the LORD’s
face” “into eternity” (22:5–9).14 Likewise, in the Testament of Levi (4.2),
the righteous one is made a “son” of God and “a minister in his presence”.15
The Qumran sectarians also seemed to have envisaged themselves as
going through a process of “angelification” while worshipping on earth,
as illustrated in the so-called Self-Glorification Hymn (4Q491). FN16”

"The “ascent” strand of Jewish apocalyptic tradition along with
the belief of angelic transformation of humans at the eschaton also found
attestation in New Testament writings (Mk 12:25/Matt 2:30; Lk 20:36;
Col 2:18; Heb 8–9; Rev 4–5) and the early church fathers. Clement of
Alexandria, a younger contemporary of Irenaeus, writes about Christian
saints as already living as angels on earth. Consider, for example, his
words that the souls of the Christian saints (“gnostics”) “surpass in the
greatness of contemplation the mode of life of each of the holy ranks …
moving to higher and yet higher places, embracing the divine vision
(θεωρία) not in mirrors or by means of mirrors”;17 “the true Gnostic has
been brought in the presence of his glory … before the angels; faultless
in joyousness, having become angels.”18

Origen, Evagrius Ponticus, and later John Climacus also applied the
concept of “angelification” to perfected ascetic life.19 Bucur uses the
term “interiorised apocalypticism” to describe the use of the “heavenly
ascent” strand of apocalyptic tradition in Clement of Alexandria and
the Byzantine monastic literature after him; it is “the transposition of
the cosmic setting of apocalyptic literature … to the inner theatre of
the soul.”20 In other words, the Clementine concept of the cosmic
ladder, i.e. human ascent to angels, to archangels, to the seven
beings first created, and to the divine Face – was used as a meta-
phor for the concept of theosis; and it is rooted in the ascent type of
Jewish apocalypticism." FN21

(Jon Garvey) #18

No, I don’t ever get that imporession before the critical era, when each apparent difficulty became evidence that the whole Scripture was false.

It was more that (a) there were more important issues to be dealt within Scripture (such as the salvation of mankind and ones own soul, for example!) and (b) with the revealed truth of Scripture being assumed, problems with understanding were seen as our problem, not a problem with the text.

Remember that if we’re talking about the period of, say, 1500-1800, the standard reconstruction of biblical ancient history was not an ancient tradition to be preserved, but a growth area in which serious research was ongoing. It’s no coincidence that James Ussher was a friend of Robert Boyle’s, and considered a cutting edge scientific scholar by Chroistian natural scientists at the time.

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(Jeremy Christian) #19

To be clear, the issues I’m raising here I don’t see as a problem with the text, but rather a problem with the interpretation not being consistent with the text. Like, in this case, a global flood.

(George) #20


Are you trying to be provocative?

It’s one thing to argue that the Flood was originally Regional, and it became garbled in ancient times.

But for you to assert that thousands of Hebrew scholars (some Jewish, some Christian, some neither) are erroneously translating the Hebrew is really quite over-the-top.

Let’s look at your specific words: “… but rather [it is] a problem with the interpretation not being consistent with the text.”

I have my own version of this kind of discussion. You know the part in Exodus where Elohim says His name?: Say that my name is “I am that I am”!

In this PDF link, the writer offers a common interpretation:

"The Septuagint translates ehyeh asher ehyeh of Exodus 3:14a into Greek as
ego eimi ho on, which translates into English as “I am the one who is”, and it
translates the absolute ehyeh of 3:14b as “ho on”, “the one who is”.FN2

“This earliest of all translations of the Hebrew thus associates the revelation of Exodus 3:14 with the
concept of absolute existence. It is especially noteworthy by virtue of being, to this day, one of the very few translations to interpret eyheh asher ehyeh as God’s Selfidentification to Moses. It is also the first of many to recognise the absolute ehyeh as the Divine name in the verse.”

"However, the Septuagint translation of the verse cannot be an exact rendering of the Hebrew because neither the form of words nor the actual words of the Greek translation allow for that possibility.
The versions of Aquila and Theodotion have ehyeh asher ehyeh and the ehyeh of 3:14b rendered into Greek as esomai hos esomai and esomai respectively, which in turn translate as “I will be who I will be” and “I will be”.FN3

“There could have been several reasons why they chose to translate the words of Exodus 3:14 in this way, but among them would certainly have been a desire to produce a translation that would be more true to the Hebrew original than the Septuagint.”

But there are researchers who think one of the reasons the term Elohim is used in other parts of the Bible is because of the view that Elohim was a androgene diety … comprised to be complete and full into His self … and Her self!: the argument is that God is complete, in part, because God is both male and female.

And, as part of this argument, they look to this verse as a Hebrew play on words… to veil the real secret of God’s essence: if this verse was written in Cuneiform, instead of in Hebrew, the correct interpretation would be:

“I am Asher(ah) and Ea” [pronunciation: i.e., Ee-yaa]

In fact, the most powerful point this particular camp makes is that there seems to be no unique Semitic spelling for the Sumerian God of Life, “Ea”, and that Babylonian and Assyrian priests who were fluent in the Sumerian cuneiform (both the Sumerian pronunciations, and the Semitic words long associated with the same symbols), would most likely have written it to look like Yah, Yahu, and so forth.

It gets even more complicated when a study of the Egyptian deity name Osiris reveals that the Greek word Osiris has hardly anything to do with the actual name Egyptian Egyptians used for their God of the Afterlife, Osiris!: the term is actually more like: Asar, Ausar, Ausir (and more). Since the Egyptian god “Ausar” is the male God of a Pillar (the djed pillar)… there is a possibility that the Egyptians swapped the “female Asherah/pillar goddess” into a MALE format: the so-called Osiris. In fact, Asherah may now serve as the revered pillar Djed!

[Quote from Osiris Wiki article]
Osiris is a Latin transliteration of the Ancient Greek Ὄσιρις IPA: [ó.siː.ris], which in turn is the Greek adaptation of the original name in the Egyptian language. In Egyptian hieroglyphs the name appears as wsjr , which some Egyptologists instead choose to transliterate ꜣsjr or jsjrj . Since hieroglyphic writing lacks vowels, Egyptologists have vocalized the name in various ways, such as Asar, Ausar, Ausir, Wesir, Usir, or Usire.”

[Link for the quote above:]

So… to finally get to my point, @Jeremy_Christian!

If I were to read somebody from this “God is Androgene” as saying that the conventional (i.e., “the usual”) translation of Exodus 3:14 is inconsistent with the text, I would laugh my head off!

I recommend a little more circumspection about your interpretation of the Flood Story:

A) You could say that the vocabulary (and/or the semantics) are “internally inconsistent”.

B) Or you could say that the original version of the Hebrew flood story as been intentionally veiled to mask how the early Priests really saw things.


C) Or, you could say that the original version of the Hebrew flood story was unintentionally garbled.

But for you to say that YOU, in all your non-years of studying Hebrew grammar and interpretation of Hebrew texts, can assure the readers that all these translators are misunderstanding the Hebrew … well, sir, your boldness becomes reckless and insulting. Most assuredly, you are wrong in making such an accusation. And I strongly recommend you turn your attention to deciding whether it is (A), (B) or ©. Mis-translation, having no (Letter) assigned to it (even by an amateur like me), should not be your first choice.

Please take notice of these points and in the future, guide yourself accordingly.

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