I’m curious why in the discussion of GAE, I haven’t read anybody who has brought this point up before. Namely, have we considered the influence of patrilineality in assigning the significance of genealogy in the Bible?
Patrilineality in the Bible
Patrilineality is the idea that one’s family membership derives from one’s father, not mother. This idea is prevalent in the Bible, especially Genesis, which describes the period of the patriarchs. Jacob has 12 sons who each fathered new tribes of Israel, but he also has a daughter, Dinah, about whom we do not hear about again after the incident of her rape by the Shechem (Genesis 34). There is no “tribe of Dinah.”
Secondly, the Bible also mostly lists fathers in genealogies, for example in Genesis 5:
When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.
This is one of the few passages in the OT which talks about the image of God other than Gen. 1:26-27 (the other famous one is Gen. 9:6). Adam, being in the image of God, fathers a son which is similar to him (inheriting both his pious and sinful tendencies). Eve is not mentioned at all. Not a single woman is mentioned in the Genesis 5 genealogies. A few are mentioned in Numbers 26 and 1 Chronicles 1-2, but fathers always define the family line. There is almost no case where a man X has a daughter Y who marries another man Z whose offspring is defined as “belonging” to X instead of Z’s father.
The only exception I can think of is the case of Zelophehad’s daughters, who had no brother (Numbers 27:1-11). There, the daughters appeal to Moses to let them keep their father’s inheritance. The request is granted, and strict laws are stipulated so that a man’s inheritance is always kept within his clan, even if he doesn’t have any sons. But later (Numbers 36:1-11), the daughters are also admonished to only marry men from their father’s clan, so that their inheritance will never be passed on other clans. So even here, patrilineality is assumed!
In the New Testament, patrilineality is seen in the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke. No women are mentioned in the genealogy of Luke 4. A few famous ones are mentioned in Matthew 1 (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, Mary). But still note there the emphasis on fathers.
One passage which may seem to contradict patrilineality is Genesis 3:15, where the serpent is cursed by God in the Garden of Eden:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Here we have reference to the offspring or seed of Eve, and not just Adam. This seems to confer legitimacy and importance to Eve being an ancestor of humanity and not just Adam.
Patrilineality, Spermism, and Christian Theology
The prevalence of patrilineality may have also been influenced by the widespread ancient belief in spermism, the idea that the father contributes the essential characteristics of their children while the mother only contributes the material. This would support the patriarchal notion that fathers should define a child’s status - whether social, economic, or religious. This view was held by several important figures in Greco-Roman culture, such as Pythagoras and Aristotle, though it was not held uninamously: Empedocles believed that both male and female contributed genetic material to the embryo.
More importantly for our purposes, the influence of spermism can be seen in Augustine’s theory of original sin. Augustine famously held that Romans 5:12 taught that we sinned in Adam. What this meant is that we already existed in Adam’s testicles when he sinned in the Garden of Eden, and so we all shared the guilt, just like Adam’s hand was an instrument of sin in receiving the forbidden fruit from Eve. Augustine’s theory would make more sense if spermism were true, because one would be able to say that all of subsequent humanity - basically, mini-versions of each of us - literally resided in Adam when he sinned. This would give an ontological basis for Adam (but not Eve) being appointed as our federal representative, and also why Paul only talks about Adam in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5:12-21. In the GAE book, this theory of original sin is discussed on p. 196, noting the outdated biology and arguing that Augustine’s theory should be “shelved”.
Now I’m not sure whether the Jews historically believed in spermism, despite the prevalence of patrilineality in the OT and NT. Did they view the father as contributing the essential characteristics, the mother, or both parents? I would be interested to know more if someone has already done research on this. However, we do have the following passage from Hebrews 7:8-10:
In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.
(This refers to the Abraham’s meeting with Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20. Levi was one of Abraham’s great-grandchildren.) Now, at surface value, the argument in Hebrews would be less convincing if spermism were false and only parts of Levi’s DNA were in Abraham’s body (as we now know from modern genetics). There is no longer a clear causal connection between Abraham paying the tithe for Levi, because Levi didn’t actually exist at the time when Abraham did so. I suppose one could argue that Abraham paid the tithe for his family, including any future members, regardless of whether they actually existed at the time. But even so, family here would be defined by descent from the father, not mother.
Implications of Patrilineality on the GAE
Where am I going with this? Well, if some biblical authors apparently believed in patrilineality and/or spermism (as the writer of Hebrews seemed to), would that influence how they viewed the significance of genealogies, which mostly listed only fathers? As far as I know, the recent GAE thesis assumes that either parent (father or mother) is allowed to count as an ancestor. So say if Adam and Eve had Cain, who had a daughter X who married someone outside the Garden, then all descendants of X would still be counted as descending from Adam and Eve. But the situation drastically changes if you can only “count” your father. Each person only has one father; genealogy would spread much less rapidly. I’m not sure if anybody has done a calculation using these assumptions. It would be interesting to know.
Throughout the GAE book, Joshua states repeatedly that the Bible talks about genealogy, not genetics. In his exploratory proposal for the propagation of original sin (p. 197), he posits that original sin is spread by our causal connection to God’s act of mercy upon Adam. Now of course, we as modern readers no longer hold to spermism, and even many evangelical Christians would not hold to patriarchal notions like patrilineality. I do not intend to turn this into a complementarian/egalitarian debate.
Still, I do want to bring up a question: isn’t it more accurate to say that when the Bible talks about genealogy, it is mainly concerned about patrilineal genealogy? Even if one believes that patrilineality is no longer important in the New Testament, where there is no longer “male or female” (Gal. 3:28), it is clear that patrilineality is central in the Old Testament genealogies, laws, and patriarchal narratives, which define the identity of the nation of Israel. In contrast, Joshua’s proposal of genealogical connection (whether patrilineal or matrilineal) to Adam and Eve being significant is a distinctly more egalitarian idea. But it seems to me that if you want to downplay the the modern Christian relevance of patrilineality (for example, if patrilineality was just an ancient accommodation to the patriarchal culture of the ANE), you might also have good reason to downplay the relevance of genealogy as well. The two seem to be coupled together.