Now You See Them – Now You Don’t

I’ve just posted a new piece with relevance to the Genealogical Adam hypothesis, and specifically the presence of people outside the garden when they seem absent from the text.

It’s a comparison of Mesopotamian texts that seem to contradict each other about the creation of man late in time, versus his longstanding existence in a primitive state. Clearly the Sumerians had some way to reconcile both.

Put more succinctly, absence of evidence of widespread humanity in an ANE creation text is demonstrably not evidence of absence, but only of literary purpose.

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I think you article does a good job exploring the themes of “laboring for the Gods”. If you want a Garden… you are going to need gardeners!

Can you add some key quotes?

One of my current research aims is to demonstrate that the Bible itself has an awareness of other people existing in the world at the time of Adam, despite being overtly silent about them.

This is a really important aim. How would you enumerate the key lines of evidence you are using to make this case? Not just in this specific article, but overall?


The key approach is through the narrative structure of the Pentateuch (leading to the whole OT and, in fact, the whole Bible). Following various scholars (see links in Hump OP) I see the Pentateuch as decribing not merely the Covenant with Israel, but the failure of Israel to enter into it fully and gain intimacy with God, on behalf of humanity and the whole creation.

The story of Adam has marked parallels to this, as indeed does the mission and message of Jesus - the one who succeeds in transforming creation where both Adam and Israel have failed.

The logic of these parallels, which I’ve expanded in various articles, is that individuals are called from the wider human world into sacred space, and that would lead to the expectation that Adam was similarly called from amongst men, as Abraham, Moses, or Jesus (as to his human nature) were.

Genesis 1 can be read as giving us just such a context - a world populated by men created in God’s image, yet not in intimate covenant relationship with their maker; given rule of the animals, but called (in Adam) to rule even angels.

None of the theological ideas are new - but the scheme unifies the “salvation history” (which is actually a wider “new creation” history) of Genesis 1-11 (Adam’s call, failure and exile), the Old Covenant (Israel’s call, failure, and exile) and the New Covenant (Christ’s incarnation, call, and victory through suffering).

So the presence of “adams” outside the garden is only secondarily congruent with the sciences - it seems to me to arise from the drama of the narrative itself.

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What evidence are you offering that ancient readers saw this too?

That’s an interesting one, in that part of the issue with the prophetic OT is the failure of Israel to understand their own Scriptures (or that was what Jesus said). For example, the gender equality of Genesis is obvious to all, but one hears of the prayers of pious Jews giving thanks they weren’t born a Gentile or a woman.

But Sailhamer makes a good case (obvious once you’re aware of it) that the over-arching theme of the Torah, in its final form, is about failure, exile and a distant future hope. Adam’s tale is also obviously paradigmatic of Israel (N T Wright says no Israelite in the Exile could read it without identifying with it, and even Peter Enns recognises the parallels, but uses it as evidence that Adam was invented retrospectively from the exile).

So much for the overall theme - did the original readers recognise there were people outside the garden? Hard to say, because 2nd temple interpretations are possibly separated from the author by several centuries and an exile. The current OP is an attempt to show that it is, at least; plausible in literary terms.

Can you lay out the evidential case for this? What are the texts involved? Both from this OP and other things stewing in your head would be helpful.

The curent post argues:
(1) Atrahasis and other Babylonian texts speak of humans created to work the land instead of the gods.
(2) Another text Ewe and Lamb, however, describes the invention of agriculture for the gods to feed and clothe themselves, but says at that time people lived by foraging and went naked.
(3) Ergo, ANE peoples were able to hold in tension stories of mankind created de novo, and mankind with a long history, but we wouldn’t know it from Atrahasis.
(4) Similarly, Genesis failing to mention specifically those outside the garden and before Adam does not entail they were assumed not to exist.

What’s stewing in my head is the need to get some sleep and mow the grass before it rains tomorrow… the rest is a work in progress.

Some modern students of the Bible recognize themes and issues in Genesis that indicate a composition after contact with Persians. If that is so, it lends credence to the idea that Genesis was written to accomplish a couple of things (all at once):

  1. To provide a back-story to where the “10+2” tribes of Israel and Judah came from. An old story about Jacob gets “sutured” into the story line when he gets renamed to Israel. He has 12 sons and each son creates a separate tribe. This is virtually impossible; there is no known example of this happening anywhere at any time. And yet we encounter the 12 tribes of the Ishmaelites too…

And in Genesis 36, we find Esau, who fathered the Edomite territory, carved into 11 duke-doms (re-affirmed in 1 Chronicles 1), each one (not plausibly) with his own territory!: Timnah, Alvah, Jetheth, Aholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, Magdiel and Iram!

Not to mention a practical tsunami of twelves in 1 Chronicles 25! … brothers and sons = 12, 12, 12, 12!!! … as far as the eye can see!:

1Ch 25:9-31:
Now the first lot [of land] came forth for Asaph to Joseph:
the second [lot] to Gedaliah, who with his brethren and sons were twelve:
The third to Zaccur, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The fourth to Izri, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The fifth to Nethaniah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The sixth to Bukkiah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The seventh to Jesharelah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The eighth to Jeshaiah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The ninth to Mattaniah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The tenth to Shimei, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The eleventh to Azareel, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The twelfth to Hashabiah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The thirteenth to Shubael, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The fourteenth to Mattithiah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The fifteenth to Jeremoth, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The sixteenth to Hananiah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The seventeenth to Joshbekashah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The eighteenth to Hanani, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The nineteenth to Mallothi, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The twentieth to Eliathah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The one and twentieth to Hothir, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The two and twentieth to Giddalti, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The three and twentieth to Mahazioth, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
The four and twentieth to Romamtiezer, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve.

  1. To provide an antiquity to the Hebrew that equals or surpasses the creation stories of Persia, Assyria and the Greeks.

  2. To provide the Jewish version of how all the people of the world are related (Table of Nations, Chapter 10).

  3. To provide an explanation for human suffering parallel to the female-centric Pandora story line… not to forget an explanation for male dominance over women (part of God’s eviction curse). Notice how both stories focus on the role of women.

  4. To provide an explanation for the proliferation of languages (Judaized version of the Tower of Babel).

  5. A late insert into Genesis appears to be the Great Flood (a Judaized version of another Akkadian story)… because the complications of the flood appear to have been glossed over. If the Flood had been part of Genesis from the very beginning, there would be no plot holes to fill up.

  6. The story of Cain appears to have been a Canaanite creation story (with the mark of immunity that being a Canaanite gave an early phase of that nation)… which got swallowed up in the larger scope of Hebrew legend. Instead of it being a mark of immunity, it became a mark of immunity to thwart a curse.

  7. To elaborate the ethnic connection to the Ammonites and the Moabites … explaining why they should not be badly treated, but why they were not as good as the Hebrew.

Genesis is a great grab-bag of national aspirations.

Got the sleep - grass still needs doing…

But another strand of evidence that the writer of Genesis knew there were people outside the Adamic line is the table of nations, about which I wrote in February.

Scholars usually assume that the table was constructed from all those nations known to the author, to bring them within the family tree of Adam. But it’s actually a selective tree, and corresponds quite closely to the distribution, from archaeological and genetic evidence, of the western (Anatolian) branch of Neolithic culture.

It omits all reference to the territories occupied by the eastern branch, believed to have arisen separately in the Indus valley, whose spread is similarly shown in archaeology and genetics. And yet whenever Genesis 1-11 was composed - in Mosaic, Kingdom, exilic or even post-exilic periods - there was plentiful cultural exchange towards the east.

This seems to me to indicate that the table of nations is intentionally about the direct genealogical relations of Adam, and not about the totality of mankind. And if this is so, then of course it is also true of the earlier chapters of Genesis.


You have read the articles about the Table of Nations that indicate it is based on a corpus of geographic knowledge from the mid-500s? There are settlements in the Table of Nations that existed only in the mid-Iron Age, and not in the Bronze Age… and there are settlements not in the Table of Nations that existed only in the Bronze Age and not in the mid-Iron Age.

I believe it was the habit of the scribes to update place names when making copies of scripture. I think the reference to the “City of Ramses” threw people off on the date of the Exodus for a while.

At any rate the “Table of Nations” has every appearance of something that was updated over time as they kept track of where everyone wound up.

I believe it is the habit of Creationists to say what you say about the Table of Nations.

But even this apologia doesn’t explain why writers (who supposedly never changed anything once it was written) would delete the name of a Bronze Age settlement that existed only in the Bronze Age. That is the purported time frame of the Table of Nations.

I think the more logical explanation is that the Table of Nations was put together by referencing the archives of the Babylonians, the Persians, and maybe even some information about Egypt from the Jeremiad community.

Except that the point I’m making is that the Table of Nations actually doesn’t match the “known world” of any of those empires, nor of any period. Least of all does it match the Persian Empire, whose immediate sphere of influence was primarily eastward as far as the Indus Valley - the very area most obviously missing from the Table of Nations.

And Persia’s trading influence extended as far as China, which is definitely nowhere to be seen in Genesis, whilst ancient Babylonia’s extended to India (to the Indus valley by 3000 BC), and so did the Egyptian, not long afterwards, to get lapis lazuli.

Yet Adam’s descendants aren’t said to have got to those places, whereas the places they did get to match archaeological and genetic evidence.


I went to your article on the Table of Nations. As I reviewed your copy of the usual map for the Table of Nations, I was trying to eliminate the “geography” that was more or less “the outer edge of a politician’s map”. By this I mean, Persia is vast, but everything other than the western Edge of Persia really isn’t too relevant. And Egypt is large, but anything other than the eastern edge of the Nile Valley is pretty irrelevant.

The map likes to put the Ishmaelite peoples in their ring around the Empty Arabian dessert. And so for at least one view, I would want to simply exclude all of Arabia as “uninteresting”… not because I don’t care about those tribes, but just to see what happens if the Table of Nations was just noting nations of Arabia as a way of marking the “Southern Edge” of his operational world.

So we have 3 polygons:
A] a large red 4 sided polygon (please tolerate my use of the word square) - this is the maximum area (more or less) of the Table of Nation’s core competence.

B] a smaller blue polygon, focusing on frontiers ranging from the northern coast of Anatolia down to almost the end of the Persian Gulf - this rectangle has a tighter focus on Canaan, Mesopotamia and all of Anatolia.

C] a red triangle, focusing from the northren shore of Anatolia, down to the mouth of the Trigis/Euphrates rivers at the top of the Persian Gulf.

[A] the epicenter of the big red polygon is pretty much the southern edge of the old Sumer territory.

[B] using a more focused polygon, the epicenter of the blue polygon is NE Syria/Aramaean heartlands.

[C] and using the very focused red triangle, the epicenter is between Lake Van and Lake Urmia, NE of Nineveh. Even if you extend the triangle further south, the epicenter doesn’t move that much out of that

Do you think this frivolous little exercise tells us anything we can use, @jongarvey?


Yes, agreed. Persia is not articulated at all… which is what you might expect during the Babylonian phase of Exile. Anatolia and Arabia appear to be the axis of focus… especially when you start drawing diagonals through the core of the listed names.

[You will eventually see the posting I made using the map you use, and “epicenters” indicated for each frame of reference.]

My conclusion about your conclusion? The Table of Nations doesn’t no diddly about the extent of variability of Earth’s human population.

But the Table of Nation does seem very focused on Anatolia and the Arabian coast of the Persian Gulf !

It clearly has no idea of all of humanity. And it’s really a “hit parade” of the nations affecting the ANE!


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