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September 15, 2006

Comments

SDG

Excellent comments, Jimmy.

I think it's quite persuasive to see the parallels between the creation and flood stories in Genesis 1-11 and earlier creation myths as reflecting to an extent a divinely inspired commentary upon and critique of the pagan myths.

For example, in at least one of those ANE flood stories, the reason given for the gods sending the flood to destroy mankind is that mankind was multiplying on the earth and disturbing the gods by causing too much noise and commotion.

In sharp contrast, Genesis makes it very clear that God WANTS men to multiply on the earth, and that what offends God is not the noise and commotion of too many people, but sin and pride.

Puzzled

Genesis happens to be in standard linear Hebrew vav-consecutive narrative. Claims that it is not to be taken as narrative history are at the very best and most charitable, without merit.


More often it is an attempt to be welcomed by "Christianity's cultured despisers"

JD

"It's clear when reading the early chapters of Genesis, if you know the legends of the surrounding pagan peoples, that what is happening is that the author is correcting popular stories of the day from pagan stories by offering the real (monotheistic) account of what happened and offering an anti-pagan apologetic in the process"

Jimmy- I agree about the anti-pagan, monotheistic apologetic being offered.
I also agree with you that what the account is conveying does not need to neccesarily be understood as an actual historical accounting of the flood event. The story is being told from a mytha-poeic worldview to say something about mankind, the world, the nation of Israel, sin and God's faithful loving-kindness, in the context of the flood epic, common to all ANE'ers.

Good post!!!

SDG

Hi Puzzled,

Do you really think that day and night existed for three days prior to the creation of the sun? Even if you do, do you really think that this is the only reasonable way to understand the text?

How "linear" are the two creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2? In Genesis 1, God creates plants on day 3 (again, before creating the sun) and man on day 6. In Genesis 2 God created man before creating plants. Is that "linear"?

John E

"And this doesn't mean that it didn't happen that way in history. Sheriffs really did have gun battles with criminals in the Old West, and ancient flood survivors really would have reacted to their experience in a particular way."

I'd like to continue on that idea that perhaps things really DID happen that way in history, at least to some degree.

Divino Afflante Spriritu says: "In Scripture divine things are presented to us in the manner which is in common use amongst men." (#37)

Perhaps a similar converse statement is also true. The stories and ideas in common use amongst men were used by God in his revelation. That is, His revelation is not just presented in the manner in common use among men, but what was in common use among men was actually used as part of His revelation. So mythological stories of a great flood existed, and God used those stories in creating his true one. Could the mythological stories similar to the Judeo-Christian ones perhaps be somewhat of a pre-OT old testament?

JV

So what happened? Was there a worldwide global flood 5 million yrs ago with the filling of the Mediterranean basin?

A worldwide global flood 4,000 yrs ago where 8 people saved the whole of the world's animal population on a literal ark?

A local Flood killing all but 8 people in that city? If so, how did the water hit the tops of the mountains? And how does that reconcile with the universal baptism parallel per 1 Peter 3:20

Or is this all one big metaphor that people wish to wash away by saying, "God just wants to teach us peace, love, and harmony, so we don't need to worry about the details of the Bible."

I've never seen a convincing link between all the above problems, and I had hoped to see Mr. Akin give it a try.

Jordan Potter

Just a little pedantic piece of trivia: "Xisuthros" is the Grecianised spelling of "Ziusudra." Berosus, writing in Greek, relied on ancient cuneiform records, and rendered "Ziusudra" as "Xisuthros."

Anyway, Jimmy's analysis is spot on. Similarities between pagan Babylonian flood stories and the biblical account are unsurprising, and really tell us nothing about how the Genesis account originated or whether or not there really was a Flood. After all, the earliest Babylonian and Sumerian texts of the flood story really aren't much older than the Genesis account, which would have been written down in the 1400s B.C. (assuming that written account isn't even older than Moses' day, which it could be), and some of those texts are younger than the Genesis account.

Justin West

I always thought it was interesting that so many cultures had this story...like a piece of true history wedged in the human subconscious and comming out a number of ways. It's not "borrowed" in any culture, but all share that as their collective past - especially if the flood did in fact cover the entire earth, not just a part.

Jared Weber

So tired of the old claim that Christianity (and Judaism as well in this case) rely upon and steal from pagan stories. Some of my old associates liked to bring up the whole Osirus myth, or the "corn king" or whatever dying and resurrecting god story they can get their hands on.

If they're willing to read a bit, I always point them to GK Chesterton's The Everlasting Man which discusses how, far from disproving Judeo-Christianity, these stories actually tend to shore it up. The stories of the Flood or the Dying God or whatever are so important to mankind that we should be surprised if they DIDN'T make their respective ways into the myths, the subconscious and the imaginations of man, whether they have been blessed to have it revealed to them or merely dreamt of.

It's like a news story based on a garbled phone call and a doctored photo being corrected by an eye witness. The stories might be similar, but that doesn't mean the eye witness is copying and altering the news story.

flooded

"And since everything asserted by the Holy Spirit is true, everything that is asserted in the story of Noah is true. The Genesis account offers a true account of everything it asserts."

The story of Noah clearly can't be literal because we know they couldn't have fit that many animals on the ark and we know from genetic studies that humans and animals alive today have more than two ancestors or a number of ancestors greater than however many people were on the ark - eight I think.

Brother Cadfael

flooded,

we know from genetic studies that humans ... alive today have more than two ancestors or a number of ancestors greater than however many people were on the ark - eight I think.

Care to provide a cite to any of these "genetic studies"?

SDG

So what happened? Was there a worldwide global flood 5 million yrs ago with the filling of the Mediterranean basin?

A worldwide global flood 4,000 yrs ago where 8 people saved the whole of the world's animal population on a literal ark?

A local Flood killing all but 8 people in that city? If so, how did the water hit the tops of the mountains? And how does that reconcile with the universal baptism parallel per 1 Peter 3:20

Or is this all one big metaphor that people wish to wash away by saying, "God just wants to teach us peace, love, and harmony, so we don't need to worry about the details of the Bible."

I've never seen a convincing link between all the above problems, and I had hoped to see Mr. Akin give it a try.

The answer to your root question, JV, is that from a historiographical perspective the evidence of the text is insufficient to establish "what happened."

"Worrying about the details of the Bible" is a red herring. "The Bible" is not homogenous. It is the word of God in the words of men, like other human words in every respect except error, just as Jesus is God made man like other men in all respects except sin. What is asserted by the sacred author is asserted by the Holy Spirit; but in order to understand what is asserted by the sacred author, the books of the Bible must be read and understood as human literature the same as any other human literature.

One way to classify a given text is by the author's relationship to the events in question. An eyewitness report is one kind of account; reportage of what other people have told you is another; records of stories that have been told for generations in your community is another, and so on.

The gospel accounts reflect eyewitness testimony written within the generation that witnessed the events in question. They are thus clear evidence of "what happened." Much of the OT historical books reflects historically relevant evidence of "what happened" (e.g., scribal records from the courts of the kings of Judah and Israel).

The story of the Exodus, though presumably recorded long after the events in question, reflects memories of events that can be related to ANE history as we know it. The stories of the patriarchs in Gen 11-50 also can be situated in a historical and geographical context, though here we are much farther from history than in the records of the kings of Judah and Israel, let alone the gospels.

The stories of Genesis 1-11 are very difficult, if not impossible, to relate in any meaningful way to any historical and geographical context. No one can say when Noah would have lived, or where, or what else may have been happening in the world at that time.

Almost by definition, the story of the flood is set in a prehistorical time, before the emergence of various early civilizations (here predicated of the later Tower of Babel episode) and the beginnings of the earliest evidences of recorded history. Even on the theory that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, its authorship would still be at an incalculable chronological remove from the events in question, and thus cannot meaningfully be considered historiographically reliable evidence.

All of this is not to say that the Flood didn't happen, or that Noah wasn't real. Rather, from a historical perspective I don't think it's possible to say, and certainly not to insist, that the Flood happened and Noah was real, and we know it.

To insist on the contrary -- that the text must be understood as reflecting an omniscent knowledge of historical events regardless of the human author's relationship to the events in question -- reflects a hermeneutic analogous to Docetism, attending to the divine aspect to the exclusion of the human.

John E

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but when we say these stories are literal, we mean the "ordinary construction or primary meaning of a term or expression". So the literal meaning of the expression "the Broncos offensive line can open a hole a mile wide" means that the Broncos offensive line blocks so well that it allows the running backs to run through easily, not that you would find a mile-wide gap for the running backs to run through. (Aside: either way, literal doesn't necessarily mean true in this case).

With Genesis though, since we are not of that time, culture, literary style, etc, the difficulty is determining whether the truth is is that the events took place exactly as described, or whether the truth is a deeper truth conveyed by the story, or some combination of both. Perhaps those more knowledgeable can clarify this for me.

SDG

John E, thanks for pointing out that the "literal sense" of the text is not the same thing as the literal meaning of the words.

In the example you gave, the literal meaning of the words would be that there really is a mile-wide gap. By contrast, the literal sense is the sense intended by the author (or speaker) to be understood by his audience.

A less confusing paraphrase might be "the LITERARY sense," i.e., the sense that is literarily intended by the author, whether literal or figurative.

Jordan Potter

"Even on the theory that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, its authorship would still be at an incalculable chronological remove from the events in question, and thus cannot meaningfully be considered historiographically reliable evidence."

If the Bible teaches the truth without error, then it doesn't matter a flying fig what the chronological remove was between Moses and the Flood: any time the Bible makes a historical assertion, it's a true assertion. That's the Catholic doctrine. Making an analogy to Docetism is a red herring, because God's ability to inspire scripture inerrantly does not obliterate the human aspect of how He created the Scriptures.

Remember what Jesus said about Zechariah son of Berechiah's martyrdom? That would have happened about 500 B.C. Does the chronological remove between Zechariah and Jesus, or the somewhat greater remove between Zechariah and the Evangelists, cast the slightest doubt on what Jesus is recorded to have said about how the prophet Zechariah died? How could it? Jesus is God Incarnate, and God is not ignorant of anything.

SDG

Care to provide a cite to any of these "genetic studies"?

I believe any geneticist could easily confirm that the genetic variation of the human race is vastly in excess of what could be produced from a single-digit population of progenitors.

Of course, if you're commited to a literal reading of Genesis 1-11, you can always posit that God oversaw a vast mutative explosion after the Flood (and probably after or around the Tower of Babel) to create the genetic diversity we see today.

Brother Cadfael

SDG,

I believe any geneticist could easily confirm that the genetic variation of the human race is vastly in excess of what could be produced from a single-digit population of progenitors.

I don't want to misunderstand you here. Are you saying that the human race does not have one set of common ancestors (two people) from which all humans descended?

SDG

Remember what Jesus said about Zechariah son of Berechiah's martyrdom? That would have happened about 500 B.C. Does the chronological remove between Zechariah and Jesus, or the somewhat greater remove between Zechariah and the Evangelists, cast the slightest doubt on what Jesus is recorded to have said about how the prophet Zechariah died?

You raise an interesting question, since the scriptures do attest that Zechariah the son of Jehoida was slain in precisely the manner that Matt 23:25 ascribes to Zechariah son of Berechiah (2 Chron. 24:20-21).

Were two different Zechariahs slain in precisely the same manner? Or did Matthew or his copists inadvertently record the wrong Zechariah?

Like you, I am loath to attribute even incidental error to the Savior; I am more willing to consider that Matthew may have made an incidental error in reportage, and certainly willing to stipulate that an early copyist may have made such an error.

I am not persuaded that the most plausible view is that both Zechariahs were slain in this manner and that Jesus divinely revealed the martyrdom of the second Zechariah in such an offhand manner, in spite of all his hearers being unaware of this event. Everyone who heard him and realized the incongruity would surely think that he had simply misspoken.

Jordan Potter

"I believe any geneticist could easily confirm that the genetic variation of the human race is vastly in excess of what could be produced from a single-digit population of progenitors."

What genetic variation do you mean? I keep hearing that the overwhelming majority of our DNA is identical to chimpanzee DNA, but look how very different we humans are from chimpanzees. So how does the genetic variation of the human race constitute any kind of argument against what Jesus and St. Paul said about the monogenic origin of the human race?

Jordan Potter

"You raise an interesting question, since the scriptures do attest that Zechariah the son of Jehoida was slain in precisely the manner that Matt 23:25 ascribes to Zechariah son of Berechiah (2 Chron. 24:20-21)."

No, the scripture attest no such thing. Both Zechariahs were killed in the Temple, and both were named Zechariah, and both were priests. That's where the similarity ends. The Bible does not say exactly where Zechariah son of Jehoiada was killed -- it just says in the Temple -- but Jesus said prdcisely where the prophet Zechariah was killed. The Bible also says one Zechariah was son of Jehoiada, and the other Zechariah was son of Berechiah.

Also, for all we know, the Hebrew text has a scribal error. The Septuagint reads "Azarias" (Azariah), not Zechariah, as the name of Jehoiada's son. If that reading is correct, the only similarity between these two cases is that both men were priests who were martyred in the Temple.

But let's say that Jesus was talking about Jehoiada's son. That only makes my argument stronger, because Jehoiada's son was martyred in the 800s B.C., three centuries before the prophet Zechariah, which creates an even greater remove between the historical event and Jesus' statement about the precise location where Zechariah died. Are we free to reject what Jesus said about the location of Zechariah's martyrdom just because Jesus, the only authority for that information, spoke 800 years after the event?

SDG

I don't want to misunderstand you here. Are you saying that the human race does not have one set of common ancestors (two people) from which all humans descended?

No. I am saying that genetically speaking, the current genetic diversity cannot be ascribed to descent from two parents without bringing in some other factor -- most obviously either a larger total pool of ancestors or else special genetic mutative processes not resembling any known genetic laws.

What genetic variation do you mean? I keep hearing that the overwhelming majority of our DNA is identical to chimpanzee DNA, but look how very different we humans are from chimpanzees.

A human being has 46 chromosomes in 23 matched pairs. Two human beings is going to get you 72 chromosomes.

Population-wise, working only with the 72 chromosomes of any two particular individual humans is going to offer you a sharply limited number of possible combinations in terms of global population possibilities.

For example, if you take any man and any woman alive today, and put them on a desert island and let them populate it, with siblings marrying siblings and so on, ten thousand years from now all of their descendants are going to look really really really really really really really really similar -- probably pretty much as similar as the original sets of brothers and sisters, or as any other brother and sister.

You just can't get from there to the range of ethnicities and races extant today without positing special genetic mutative processes not resembling known genetic laws -- or a larger pool of original ancestors.

flooded

"any time the Bible makes a historical assertion, it's a true assertion. That's the Catholic doctrine"

Are you sure on that one? What if it's a historical assertion that has nothing to do with doctrine?

SDG

"any time the Bible makes a historical assertion, it's a true assertion. That's the Catholic doctrine"

Are you sure on that one? What if it's a historical assertion that has nothing to do with doctrine?

It's still a true assertion. Whatever is asserted by the human author -- about any subject whatever -- is asserted by the Holy Spirit. Bottom line: If it's an assertion, it's true. It's just that not everything that can be inferred from the text constitutes an assertion of the author.

"For example, if you take any man and any woman alive today, and put them on a desert island and let them populate it, with siblings marrying siblings and so on, ten thousand years from now all of their descendants are going to look really really really really really really really really similar -- probably pretty much as similar as the original sets of brothers and sisters, or as any other brother and sister."

Nonsense. Ever heard of Darwin's finches? They're all finches, descended at most from just a few birds who came to the Galapagos long, long ago -- but look at the incredible variety.

I said, "any time the Bible makes a historical assertion, it's a true assertion. That's the Catholic doctrine"

Flooded replied, "Are you sure on that one? What if it's a historical assertion that has nothing to do with doctrine?"

Is there any such thing in the Bible? Remember that the Church excludes entirely the notion of partial or limited inerrancy. Read Leo XIII's Providentissimus Deus, cited in the footnotes that support and explain Dei Verbum 11. The entire Bible, in all its parts, is inerrant. There's no room for falsehood and error even in parts that some people think have nothing to do with doctrine.

SDG said: "It's just that not everything that can be inferred from the text constitutes an assertion of the author."

Yes, precisely. All historical assertions in the Bible are inerrantly true, but sometimes you might have something that looks like a historical assertion but really isn't (i.e., consider the Book of Judith, which is probably based on some kind of historical kernel but in its present form is certainly not a historical work; or consider Job, with its poetic, stylised dialogue or debate that artistically represents what, if it was historical -- and it probably was, I think -- would have more likely been a lot louder and messier). Where Catholics get to arguing is where the historical assertions are and where they aren't.

Jordan Potter

Whoops, forgot to sign my name to that post . . .

Michael

No. I am saying that genetically speaking, the current genetic diversity cannot be ascribed to descent from two parents without bringing in some other factor -- most obviously either a larger total pool of ancestors or else special genetic mutative processes not resembling any known genetic laws.

This is certainly true for the time frame between the Flood and now, but not necessarily true for a much larger time scale, say millions of years.

What genetic variation do you mean? I keep hearing that the overwhelming majority of our DNA is identical to chimpanzee DNA, but look how very different we humans are from chimpanzees.

The human and chimp genome are around the same size, about 3 billion nucleotide pairs. At a variation of 1.2%, that leaves a divergence of 36 million base pairs, which isn't a trivial amount. Although obvious genetics is more complicated than that.

Beauty is only skin deep, however. On the outside we look very different from the chimp, but at the organ and tissue level right on down to the molecular level, we're pretty darn identical.

The article detailing the first draft of the chimp genome is available for free online.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v437/n7055/full/nature04072.html

flooded

"Is there any such thing in the Bible? Remember that the Church excludes entirely the notion of partial or limited inerrancy........There's no room for falsehood and error even in parts that some people think have nothing to do with doctrine."

So that makes it sound like things that aren't literally true are allegorical, metaphorical, or figurative. So, when John Paul II made statements in support of the theory of evolution that would have to mean he was using a non-literal interpretation of parts of Genesis.

SDG

Nonsense. Ever heard of Darwin's finches? They're all finches, descended at most from just a few birds who came to the Galapagos long, long ago -- but look at the incredible variety.

Darwin's finches constitute over a dozen different species (which actually aren't all that diverse, except for their beaks). You're talking about mutative macroevolution, multiples species from a common ancestor. Are you saying that's what happened from Adam and Eve to us? (Besides, there's a LOT of difference between a flexible term like "a few birds" in this context, and TWO parents.)

I'm no geneticist, but here's how it looks to me. Say that for any given chromosome pair, the husband is AB and the wife is CD. Among their children, that yields four possible combinations: AC, AD, BC, and BD. No matter how many children they have, all of them will have one of these four combinations for the given chromosome pair.

Among their grandchildren and subsequent generations, there will also be cases of the original pairing AB and CD, as well as the doubled combinations AA, BB, CC and DD. That makes exactly ten possibilities in all for any given chromosome pair: AA, AB, AC, AD, BB, BC, BD, CC, CD, DD.

However, as far as I can see, these additional combinations will not lead to greater genetic diversity. Although there are literally quintillions of possible combinations, every one of these combinations will be as close as full siblings to every other combination -- or even closer. Millions of possible combinations for grandchildren and great-grandchildren will look more like siblings of the parents rather than their offspring, even to the point of resembling identical twins.

And that's it. Barring genetic mutative evolutionary change, no matter how many generations you have, you're never going to get additional chromosomes for those pairs. Ten, twenty, a hundred generations later, barring mutative evolution, the group will still exhibit at most the genetic diversity of full siblings.

Any geneticist can tell you that the human race has far more genetic diversity than that. There are not only four chromosomes for any chromosome pair in all of humanity. I have no idea how many there are, but I'm sure it's a persuasively big number. :)

This is certainly true for the time frame between the Flood and now, but not necessarily true for a much larger time scale, say millions of years.

Again, I'm not speaking here of mutative evolution.

Incidentally, although there were eight people on the ark, genetically speaking the level of genetic diversity would be at most equivalent to five individuals, since Shem, Ham and Japeth add no diversity beyond that supplied by their parents.

However, given the paucity of generations between Adam and Eve and Noah, all eight individuals would be genetically as close as full siblings anyway. Always excepting the possibility that God caused a lot of genetic mutation in those early days, so much so that parents had offspring bearing little or no genetic resemblance to themselves.

Maureen

I thought we were all past the "if it happened in a poem, it can't be true" stage of historical interpretation.

Troy, children. Still there. Mycenae. Still there.

Probably didn't happen exactly as Homer said. But Homer apparently wasn't too far off on the basics, and I have no reason to disbelieve that argy-bargy about somebody's beautiful wife couldn't have been the start of hostilities in a major trade war.

Likewise, there were quite a few big huge floods in Middle Eastern history, as well as ye old garden variety ones. Do I care which one, in the mists of history, was _the_ flood which came down to us in story?

Not really. It'd be nice to know and all, but it's not like I feel any need for proof. Just like I read about Troy and believed the basic story a long time before I heard about Schliemann.

Besides which, we're supposed to read these things according to genre, as Jimmy said.

Anyway, how is it that so many people manage to do close readings on whether things could or could not happen, but ignore all the verses about, "Hey! Reader! Yeah, you! Let's do a close reading on your behavior, and whether it is really as moral as you think it is!"

flooded

Still pretty confused here. Catholic doctrine may or may not state that a global flood happened. If it does, it may or may not state when it actually happened. If the flood is "historical" then it must state that it actually happened, but the flood doesn't have to be historical, it depends on interpretation.

Scott W

Probably didn't happen exactly as Homer said. But Homer apparently wasn't too far off on the basics, and I have no reason to disbelieve that argy-bargy about somebody's beautiful wife couldn't have been the start of hostilities in a major trade war.

Good point Maureen. I get people who look at me like I have tarantulas crawling out of my ears when I tell them I believe Dec. 25th is the actual birthdate of Our Lord.

JV

The original anatomically and culturally modern human population emerged from a stock ancestral population of about 10,000 some 60,000-100,000 years ago.

Here is a simple article for the layman. I could post abstracts to medical journals getting into tracing alleles, but that is a bit complex:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/06/09/MN52597.DTL&type=science

The only apparent way to reconcile this with monogenism is the following:

We must presume that God specially created Adam and Eve about 60,000 years ago (from this time we have cave paintings, clothing, fire, burials, and many other features which essentially preclude these people being unsouled hominids).

Adam and Eve had children, and then, in the corruption of the post-Fall world, began mating with unsouled hominids (see, for instance, Genesis 6:4 about the "daughters of men").

In this way, every living human being would be descended from Adam and Eve, but we would still be able to see the stock population of 2,000-10,000.

For instance, if Hominid A and Hominid B have Hominid baby AB, who mates with Cain, their child will be ensouled as a human being. Continue this process for thousands of years and you get the variation we see today, while preserving spiritual monogenism.

The only problem I can see about that is Genesis 4:2, where livestocking and instrument playing is mentioned.

No evidence of anything by hunting and gathering has been found as long as 100,000 years ago, so I suppose, given that immense disconnect, we must suppose that more evidence needs to be found, or that the dating techniques are off.

The one other problem is the genealogies. Adding Adam's age to Cain's all the way down to Christ yields about 4,000 years. Naturally, we would have to posit some big, big gaps in the genealogy to make the 100,000 year proposal work, but much of that genealogy seems to link the fathers directly to their sons rather than to distance ancestors.

Jordan Potter

"The original anatomically and culturally modern human population emerged from a stock ancestral population of about 10,000 some 60,000-100,000 years ago."

Assuming radiometric methods of dating and related methods of dating are reliable, yes, that would appear to be the case. That's a pretty big if, though, especially since we have no way of knowing whether things have happened that may have "reset the clocks." Personally I take a lot of the results of radiometric dating with a hefty dose of salt. Radiometric methods seem to be more reliable for artifacts that are more recent in time, say, within the past 10,000 years or younger -- and we have different controls and means of testing and adjusting the dating results to help ensure accuracy. But by and large it a broken reed to try to lean on, dependent on just too many unfalsifiable conditions, that we have no way of knowing if they're true or not, for me to be comfortable trusting the dating results. "We have no way of knowing for sure if A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and J are true, but if they are all true, then such-and-such human skull is 350,000 years old." Forgive me for saying that I get the impression that the reason I can see the Emperor's rear cleavage is because he's not got any pants on.

That being said, if it's possible to read Genesis in a way that fits Catholic doctrine AND what science seems to tell us about human antiquity, then I'm all for it. I'm just cautious about what science can really tell us about human antiquity. Those dates are treated as hard facts, when they are in fact the provisional and hypothetical results of scientific experiments. Knowing how many atoms of a certain type are in a specimen is not the same thing as knowing, "This specimen is about this old." The date is an extrapolation based on the results of the tests.

"Adding Adam's age to Cain's all the way down to Christ yields about 4,000 years."

I think you meant "Seth's," not Cain's, because the Bible does not tell us Cain's age. Anyway, different manuscripts of Genesis provide different ages for the patriarchs in Gen. 5 and Gen. 11, with Septuagint texts giving us bigger numbers and Hebrew and Samaritan texts giving us smaller numbers. The Masoretic numbers would place Adam's creation around 4000 B.C., but the Septuagint numbers would place Adam's creation around 5500 B.C. Interestingly enough, while the Masoretic numbers place Noah's Flood during historical times, the Septuagint numbers would place the Flood around 3300 B.C., prior to recorded human history. I don't know if that means anything, but there it is.

Of course, it is disputed whether or not the chronology in Gen. 5 and 11 is properly to be taken in a literal sense. Certainly on the surface, they seem to be intended as a historical record -- but then everyone thought the Book of Judith was a historical record until greater knowledge of the history of the Near East made it impossible to maintain that point of view any longer.

"Naturally, we would have to posit some big, big gaps in the genealogy to make the 100,000 year proposal work, but much of that genealogy seems to link the fathers directly to their sons rather than to distant ancestors."

Yes, that's one of the problems I have with attempts to read Gen. 5 and 11 as unhistorical. If it were just a bare list of names, it would be easy to say, "Well, ancient genealogies are often summarised, so maybe 10 generations are meant to stand for 100 generations." But that's not what those chapters say. They say, "Shem was X years old and he begot Arpakshad; and Arpakshad was X years old and he begot Kenan; and Kenan was X years old and he begot Shelah. . . ." It's those darned numbers (whichever manuscript has the right numbers, if any of them do) that get in the way.

"Barring genetic mutative evolutionary change, no matter how many generations you have, you're never going to get additional chromosomes for those pairs."

The trouble is that we cannot bar genetic mutative change, whether divinely introduced or simply as a part of nature. We have no way to tell the genetic makeup of Adam and Eve, nor of the ova that God would have created in Eve's ovaries. In addition, biological populations have this way of differentiating not only through random mutation, but through migration and isolation. There's no reason to believe all of Adam and Eve's descendant stayed in the same place intermarrying only with each other in that same location. If some of Adam and Eve's children or grandchildren paired off and migrated elsewhere, and then that process repeated itself, creating new isolated centers of human population, in time we should expect to see the appearance of distinct "racial" characteristics. So I don't see the argument of human genetic diversity as compelling at all -- the Church's doctrine of monogenism does not conflict with anything that we know (I mean really know) about human genetics.

Jordan Potter

Sorry, that was me again.

SDG

The trouble is that we cannot bar genetic mutative change, whether divinely introduced or simply as a part of nature.

That's fine as far as it goes, although in general the people who are most adamant about interpreting Genesis literalistically are also generally opposed to the idea of human evolution. And on a literalistic reading you don't have enough generations for natural evolution as we know it. Of course you can always posit genetic processes that bear no resemblance to any known laws, but the more you patch the theory, the less persuasive most people will feel it becomes.

We have no way to tell the genetic makeup of Adam and Eve, nor of the ova that God would have created in Eve's ovaries.

Well, the genetic makeup of Adam and Eve doesn't affect the argument, assuming they had human genetic codes made up of 46 chromosomes. (My argument above used A, B, C and D; the argument holds no matter what values we assume.)

OTOH, it does seem possible to sidestep the difficulty if we posit that Eve, having a reproductive system that did not develop organically in the normal way, might have been specially created with eggs bearing no relation (or at least not the usual relation) to her own genome. That would allow for far greater diversity in the first generation from Adam and Eve, and even more diversity in subsequent generations, since Adam's DNA (which I suppose we would still posit as being generated in the normal way) would no longer be a limiting factor after the first generation.

On that theory, FWIW, Eve's ova would not be genetically "her own" in the way that a mother's ova usually are, and her genetic relation to her children would not be that of an ordinary mother. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it does seem to be one way out of the problem.

In addition, biological populations have this way of differentiating not only through random mutation, but through migration and isolation.

This is irrelevant in itself because such differentiation occurs only when there is already sufficient genetic variation to allow for the differentiation in question. Among a population with the genetic diversity of full siblings, migration and isolation in themselves will not produce additional diversity. Not without mutation, which, again, would not occur naturally at the scale required in the few generations available according to known processes.

So I don't see the argument of human genetic diversity as compelling at all -- the Church's doctrine of monogenism does not conflict with anything that we know (I mean really know) about human genetics.

Well, that seems not unlike saying that Methuselah living to be 969 years old doesn't conflict with anything we know about aging and death. It DOES conflict with what we are able to establish and talk about regarding aging; the fact that we can't rule out completely unknown laws at work in primeval times isn't the same as saying that there isn't a problem based on what we know.

And actually the genetic problem of Adam and Eve (and subsequently Noah and his family) is in fact much MORE problematic than the age of Methuselah, because in fact we can't really say in principle why people shouldn't live to be 1000 years old -- only that, in fact, they don't -- whereas we really can say quite specifically why two parents, or eight people surviving a flood, couldn't have led to the genetic diversity extant today in the few generations available according to a literalistic reading of the text.

J.R. Stoodley

SDG,

I may have missed it somewhere above, but what is your idea of how the genetic variation in humanity came about in a way consistant with Revelation? I agree the long lifetimes of the early generations don't pose a particular problem since God could give them long supernaturally long lives if he wanted to, perhaps to mercifully ease the transition from physical immortality. The genetic issue does pose a problem though.

Is it not a doctrine of the Church that all humanity is decended from the same two first parents? Is it possible that the wives of the first generation after Adam and Eve,were not sisters but unhuman "primitive Homo sapiens"? Same for later generations. Or could non-human hominid genes have entered the genome by sinfull beastiality with the hominids, the products of which were human? In this way my theory proposed on a earlier post of a single mutation defining the human form spreading through the Homo sapiens and defining all who inherit it as human (and thus recieving a spiritual soul) might work.

The idea that Eve (and/or Adam) had unusual gametes would work too, at least if they had many more children than we know about. We still have the Noah problem though.

I admit this is the biggest problem I have with my faith, being both a biology student and someone inclined to interpret the Bible pretty literally. It just seems to assert a whole lot more as really true than I am comfortable with from a scientific perspective. I always appreciate help in this area.

SDG

I may have missed it somewhere above, but what is your idea of how the genetic variation in humanity came about in a way consistant with Revelation?

Who, me? Who says I have an idea how it happened? :)

Is it not a doctrine of the Church that all humanity is decended from the same two first parents?

That's the way church teaching leans, yes, though it's not definitively settled. Pope Pius XII said in Humani Generis of polygenism -- the theory that mankind is descended from a community of ancestors larger than two -- that "it is no no way apparent how such an opinion [polygenism] can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin." This is not, though, quite tantamount to excluding absolutely the possibility of such a reconciliation.

IIRC, Germain Grisez hypothesizes that Adam could have been the paterfamilias of a community of early humans whom God had raised to rationality, and that in Adam's sin the whole rational-human community lost communion with God, just as a whole country goes to war at the decision of its leader. I can see no obvious reason why Adam's sin would have to affect only as-yet-unborn progeny; a living community could also fall from grace through the sin of its legal head.

This theory would not require the human community over whom Adam held headship to be descended solely from Adam and Eve -- though the whole community could still be in the direct line of descent from Adam and Eve -- thus avoiding the genetic problems inherent to monogenism.

Is it possible that the wives of the first generation after Adam and Eve,were not sisters but unhuman "primitive Homo sapiens"?

This seems problematic, but I wouldn't want to exclude it absolutely.

Or could non-human hominid genes have entered the genome by sinfull beastiality with the hominids, the products of which were human?

Again, this would not be my preferred solution, though it's not clear to me that relations with members of one's own species, even if lacking in full humanity, would constitute "sinful bestiality."

The idea that Eve (and/or Adam) had unusual gametes would work too, at least if they had many more children than we know about. We still have the Noah problem though.

Yes, though perhaps this could be evaded by going the non-global flood route. Perhaps Noah's family were not the sole repopulators of the post-flood Ancient-Ancient Near East.

Speaking for myself, though, I tend to view Gen 1-11 as divinely inspired myth, conveying essential dogmatic truths regarding creation, the fall, and divine judgment and mercy.

Brother Cadfael

SDG,

J.R. asked, "Is it not a doctrine of the Church that all humanity is decended from the same two first parents?"

You responded, "That's the way church teaching leans, yes, though it's not definitively settled."

I beg to differ. You have quoted Humani Generis out of context. Immediately preceding your quote the Holy Father says, "When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.

The Holy Father is not "leaning against" polygenism in this text, he has rejected it.

Brother Cadfael

Perhaps I should clarify. I do not know whether his rejection (or that of other magisterial texts) is so definitive that it rises to the level of infallibility or is per se irreformable.

But he is rejecting it, not leaning against it. And it is a teaching that calls for religious submission. That does not mean that it can not be questioned or challenged -- Grisez does it in a manner that is perfectly acceptable as far as I know.

But I think it is a slight misrepresntation to present a teaching of the ordinary magisterium as a "leaning."

SDG

Okay, edited response based on both of Brother Cadfael's comments:

Yes, I agree that Pope Pius means to reject polygenism quite strongly -- but I also think he leaves some wiggle room.

He says that the children of the church "by no means enjoy such liberty" as to embrace polygeny, and while I agree that this calls for religious obedience, it is not clear that this expression has doctrinal rather than disciplinary force, the latter of which would mean that the question of liberty on this point is open to reexamination.

Second, he articulates two particular theories of polygeny that he says "cannot be accepted," but these are not the only two possible constructions of polygeny, as Grisez's version shows.

Thus, it still seems possible that "such an opinion" (i.e., an opinion of this general sort) may be reconcilable with divine revelation, even if it was not "apparent" at the time of the Pope's writing how this could be done.

Finally, in the absence of an infallible definition it still seems to me correct to say that the Church's teaching "leans" against polygeny.

Brother Cadfael

SDG,

I have no problem with your edited comments, and would be quite interested in studying Grisez's thoughts on this more closely. Any suggestions where I could find a short, sweet and accurate synopsis of it would be appreciated.

Thanks

SDG

Grisez's approach to polygeny is discussed in connection with the theology of the fall in his magnum opus of moral theology, The Way of the Lord Jesus. IIRC, there is a summary discussion in Grisez's one-volume popularization co-written with Russell Shaw, Fulfillment in Christ. That's as close as I'm gonna be able to get you, though.

JV

The mating with hominids theory certainly seems the most viable.

Let us not forget that the text itself seems to point to that very conclusion:

And after that men began to be multiplied upon the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 The sons of God seeing the daughters of men, that they were fair, took to themselves wives of all which they chose. 3 And God said: My spirit shall not remain in man for ever, because he is flesh, and his days shall be a hundred and twenty years. 4 Now giants were upon the earth in those days. For after the sons of God went in to the daughters of men, and they brought forth children, these are the mighty men of old, men of renown. 5 And God seeing that the wickedness of men was great on the earth, and that all the thought of their heart was bent upon evil at all times,

So, a few questions:

1. Who are these "giants" if they are not Neaderthal-type creatures, without a human soul, but biologically capable of mating with humans?

2. Is there a better way to explain that original ancestral population of 10,000?

3. What of the cryptic "sons of God and daughters of men" passage? Are not the sons of God human beings, and hominids the "daughters of men"?

4. Sinful bestiality as someone mentioned; God saw that "the wickedness of man was great on Earth."

All those humans having relations with hominids would seem to constitute wickedness, especially when it was prevalent that a population boom is indicated ("men began to be multiplied upon the Earth").

5. And what is to prevent the word "Earth" here from meaning that portion of land which Noah and his relatives inhabited? If I am not mistaken, by about 3,000 BC, there was a worldwide population of some 4 million on every continent. Only a global flood could have killed them. Hence, the Flood had to be local (and 1 Peter 3:20 can certainly still apply, the "eight souls" being saved from a limited piece of land) or it had to have occurred MILLIONS of years before, which is probably not in keeping with Genesis.

Jordan Potter

". . . in general the people who are most adamant about interpreting Genesis literalistically are also generally opposed to the idea of human evolution."

We must read Genesis literally, not literalistically.

"And on a literalistic reading"

Or a literal reading, for that matter.

"you don't have enough generations for natural evolution as we know it."

True. Of course it's quite possible that "natural evolution as we know it" is all bosh, though it doesn't look that way at this time.

"Of course you can always posit genetic processes that bear no resemblance to any known laws, but the more you patch the theory, the less persuasive most people will feel it becomes."

Well, if it's true that Adam was created from non-living matter and Eve was fashioned from his body, we would have to conclude that we'll not dealing with biological or genetic processes that bear any resemblance to any known laws. Thus, if one can believe that the first man and first woman were specially created (yes, the Church does allow speculation that they weren't, but my comments here are for the sake of argument), then it wouldn't be difficult to believe that things might be quite different back at the origin of mankind than they would become later on.

"OTOH, it does seem possible to sidestep the difficulty if we posit that Eve, having a reproductive system that did not develop organically in the normal way, might have been specially created with eggs bearing no relation (or at least not the usual relation) to her own genome."

Exactly. What if that's what God did, whenever it was that the first man and first woman lived?

"That would allow for far greater diversity in the first generation from Adam and Eve, and even more diversity in subsequent generations, since Adam's DNA (which I suppose we would still posit as being generated in the normal way) would no longer be a limiting factor after the first generation."

Yep.

"On that theory, FWIW, Eve's ova would not be genetically 'her own' in the way that a mother's ova usually are, and her genetic relation to her children would not be that of an ordinary mother. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it does seem to be one way out of the problem."

True, Eve's children in that scenario would not bear genetic relation to her in the same way that Eve's grandchildren would bear to Eve's children, but as I've said, in the traditional Christian teaching on human origins, things are bound to be very different at the start of the human family, whether it was 6,000 years ago or 600,000 years ago.

I said, "In addition, biological populations have this way of differentiating not only through random mutation, but through migration and isolation."

"This is irrelevant in itself"

True, but note that I said, "In addition," signifying that I do not believe this factor can or should be considering in itself.

"because such differentiation occurs only when there is already sufficient genetic variation to allow for the differentiation in question."

And there may have been sufficient genetic variation from the get-go, or it developed with or without divine "assistance" during the subsequent eras of human existence.

"Among a population with the genetic diversity of full siblings, migration and isolation in themselves will not produce additional diversity. Not without mutation, which, again, would not occur naturally at the scale required in the few generations available according to known processes."

That last statement is based on the assumption that we know, or can even determine, how long it would take for genetic diversity to to develop in any population -- but such measures are themselves only guesstimates dependent on the hypothesis that life has existed over vast millions upon millions of years, which gets us back to how reliable the different methods of radiometric dating really are.

Really, if we can end up with thousands of amazingly diverse breeds (not species) of dog and cat in just a few thousand years, why couldn't the even less diverse "breeds" of human develop in a comparable period of time?

I said, "So I don't see the argument of human genetic diversity as compelling at all -- the Church's doctrine of monogenism does not conflict with anything that we know (I mean really know) about human genetics."

"Well, that seems not unlike saying that Methuselah living to be 969 years old doesn't conflict with anything we know about aging and death."

Yes, and . . . ?

"It DOES conflict with what we are able to establish and talk about regarding aging; the fact that we can't rule out completely unknown laws at work in primeval times isn't the same as saying that there isn't a problem based on what we know."

Of course it's not to say there isn't a problem based on what we know, or what we think we know. It's just to say that sometimes we don't really know some things that we think we know.

"whereas we really can say quite specifically why two parents, or eight people surviving a flood, couldn't have led to the genetic diversity extant today in the few generations available according to a literalistic reading of the text."

I disagree. I don't think we can say that at all. It requires projecting current conditions of human biology back to the time before the Fall of Man. If there really was such a fundamental shift in the relationship of the world to its Creator, how are we to know how human biology functioned before the Fall? How are we to determine the genetic makeup of Eve's ova? How does a scientist determine whether or not the first man was born of a non-human or rather was formed immediately out of non-living matter? All of that seems to be something that scientists have no qualifications or ability to explore.

Jordan Potter

On the question of polygenism, I know some Catholic theologians heroically look for loopholes in Humani Generis, but their attempts come across as sophistry. The obvious meaning of Pope Pius XII is that polygenism is completely excluded and out-of-bounds because it is incompatible with the formally-established doctrines related to the defined teachings on original sin. As soon as you introduce the possibility of other human beings, or even soul-less human-like animals capable of mating with real humans, you throw into doubt whether or not all human beings alive today inherited original sin.

But even worse, you destroy the Church's doctrine on the unity of the human family, and fling the door wide-open to racism and Gnosticism, with some of us being real humans with souls, but some of us secretly being soul-less beasts who merely seem to be human, descended from isolated surviving groups of soul-less human-like animals. If polygenism is true, then for thousands of years, even hundreds of thousands of year, there must have been populations of subhumans roaming the earth, not yet having being ensouled and having contracted original sin through mating with the real humans. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches monogenism, and bases on the very law of human solidarity and charity on the fact that all humans who live today and who have ever lived are descendants of Adam, father of the entire human race, not just one group of rational, ensouled hominids among many groups of irrational, soul-less hominids. The Catechism says, quoting St. Paul:

360 Because of its common origin the human race forms a unity, for "from one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth":226

O wondrous vision, which makes us contemplate the human race in the unity of its origin in God. . . in the unity of its nature, composed equally in all men of a material body and a spiritual soul; in the unity of its immediate end and its mission in the world; in the unity of its dwelling, the earth, whose benefits all men, by right of nature, may use to sustain and develop life; in the unity of its supernatural end: God himself, to whom all ought to tend; in the unity of the means for attaining this end;. . . in the unity of the redemption wrought by Christ for all.227

361 "This law of human solidarity and charity",228 without excluding the rich variety of persons, cultures and peoples, assures us that all men are truly brethren.

226 Acts 17:26; cf. Tob 8:6.
227 Pius XII, Enc. Summi Pontificatus 3; cf. NA 1.
228 Pius XII, Summi Pontificatus 3.

If polygenism is true, then the human race does not form a unity.

Consider the allegory of Christ and His Mother at Calvary, when Jesus made the Blessed Virgin the Mother of the Church, which was born from Jesus' side in water and blood (Baptism and Eucharist). Jesus, the Second Adam, and Mary, the New Eve, are the sole and common origin of the race of the redeemed, the Catholic Church in heaven, on earth, and in purgatory. This fulfilled and repaired the sin of Adam and Eve. But if polygenism is true, then just as Adam isn't the sole ancestor of the entire human race, and Eve isn't the sole mother of the entire human race, then Jesus is not the sole Savior of the world it is a matter of indifference whether or not one is united to the Catholic Church, born from Jesus' side as Eve came from Adam's side. If our biological origins are polygenic, then our spiritual origins and redemption must be polygenic. This consideration helps to explain why monogeism has been the constant belief and teaching of the Church, with not a single magisterial document giving approval to polygenist speculations.

Lastly, let's not forget that there's no scientific reason to believe that human origins, if they were through evolutionary processes, were polygenic. None of us us has ever seen a new species or a new genus appear, but if or when they did in the past, for all we know they arose one organism at a time. If Adam (or whatever the first man's name was) did evolve from animals instead of being created immediately from non-living matter, it wouldn't make him any less the first man on earth. Since there's no real scientific evidence of polygenism anyway, why twist one's self into knots reinterpreting Church doctrine to try to make polygenism fit with what the Bible and Church have always said about original sin and human origins?

Jordan Potter

I think it's pretty eisegetic to see "the daughters of men" as females of subhuman hominids species. The Hebrew word there means "men," not beasts.

Traditionally there have been two interpretations of Gen. 6. One interpretation is that the sons of God were fallen angels who took human form and married, or mated with, human women, who thus gave birth to giants, the "Nephilim," mighty heroes or demigods of ancient mythology. Tha interpretation first appears in the Book of Enoch, written probably about 200 B.C.

The other ancient interpretation does not appear as early, but is also very ancient: the "sons of God" were the descendants of Seth, and the "daughters of men" were the descendants of Cain, and the Sethites intermarried with Cain's wicked family, giving birth to the Nephilim, ancient warrior kings who spread sin and violence throughout the world.

Personally, I'm inclined to the second interpretation, or something like it, mainly because the idea of demons impregnating human women doesn't seem possible.

As for Neanderthals being subhuman or soul-less, if I recall correctly, they had rudimentary forms of art, they buried their dead and may have had some rudimentary notion of an afterlife. If Neanderthals were mere animals or were soul-less, then there's just as much reason to conclude that none of us have souls.

JV

From a physicist:

"Analysis of common alleles in highly polymorphic loci in human and
chimpanzee indicate no severe bottleneck below 10,000 individuals since
the divergence of human and chimpanzee lineages.


This is supported by:
1) analysis of the major histocompatibility complex - specifically the
human leucocyte antigen - DRB1:
Ayala, 'The myth of Eve, Molecular biology and human origins', Science
270, 1930 - 1936

2) Beta-globin:
Harding et al, 'Archaic African and Asian lineages in the genetic
ancestry of modern humans', Am J Hum Genet 60, 772 - 789
3) Apolipoprotein C II:
Xiong et al, 'No severe bottleneck during human evolution; evidence

from two apolipoprotein C II alleles', Am J Hum Genet 48, 383 -389

Rogers and Jorde, 'Genetic evidence on the origin of modern humans',
Hum Biol 67, 1 - 36, show that a modest bottleneck of 10,000 individuals

is consistent with the data.

This minimum population size of 10,000 individuals throughout hominid
history is also supported by mitochondrial genetic diversity:
Takahata, 'Allelic genealogy and human evolution', Mol Biol Evol 10, 2

- 22;

By Y-chromosome data:
Hammer, ' A recent common ancestry for human Y-chromosomes', Nature
378, 376 - 378

By nuclear DNA:
Takahata et al, 'Diversion time and population size in the lineage

leading to modern humans', Theor Popul Biol 48, 198 - 221

At its absolute simplest, if we consider a highly polymorphic locus
like DRB-1 in the Human Leucocyte Antigen complex we find 58 human
alleles. By carrying out analyses of the pan-speciific alleles we can

determine the likely coalescence dates of alleles, by derivation of a
phylogenetic tree from pan-specific divergence of individual alleles. That
indicates that all 58 alleles persisted through the last 500,000 years of

human evolution. The 58 alleles coalesce to 44 lineages by 1.7 Myr BP and
to 21 lineages by 6 Myr BP (the apptroximate date of divergence of
human and chimpanzee ancestors). Since anatomically modern humans emerge at

125,000 years BP and culturally modern humans at 60,000 years BP, and
the human lineage polymorphism at this locus is 58 alleles during this
period, this puts a mathematically logical lower limit on the minimum

human populatrion size during culturally modern human existence of 29
individuals which in itself destroys the concept of monogeny.

Formal population genetics demands a much larger population than 29
individuals for the maintenanence of 58 alleles in a situation of neutral

drift and balanced evolution (where heterozygosity has more fitness
than any homozygosity), and the conclusion from these quantitative
evolutionary analyses is that the minimum human population bottlemneck was

around 10,000 individuals.

All of this evidence refutes the possibility that humans derive "

genetically from two individuals within the last 6 million years."

JV

I see no defect in the note about soul-less hominids.

The following example is certainly workable:

Adam and Eve procreate and have Cain and Seth. But Cain and Seth need wives to further propagate the human race.

The Nephilim/giants/"daughters of men" of Genesis 6 are prime mating partners.

Not only that, but, immediately after noting that these sons of God and daughters of men were mating with each other, God notes how wicked man has become. If man were merely mating with his own ensouled species, why such wickedness?

The only way to preserve monogenism is to hold to this or a similar theory, because there were simply never only 2 biologically modern humans (note the above about 58 alleles).

If you have Hominid A and B producing Baby AB, unsouled, and Hominid C and D producing Baby CD, and AB and CD mate with Cain and Seth, their children will have souls. Let's call those children Human 1 and Human 2. Now both of those can trace a line to their great-grandparents Adam and Eve, the parents of all humans, and unsouled Hominids A, B, C, and D. Continue this for millenia and eventually you have all human beings descended from Adam and Eve solely by human generation, and other ancestors from that 10,000 bottleneck by way of unsouled hominid.

Brother Cadfael

JV,

If man were merely mating with his own ensouled species, why such wickedness?

Check out chapter 3.

The only way to preserve monogenism is to hold to this or a similar theory, because there were simply never only 2 biologically modern humans (note the above about 58 alleles).

I must say that I am inherently distrustful of someone pasting what looks to me like a bunch of gobbledy-gook (yes, I recognize that is likely due only to my ignorance), and then boldly proclaiming to have proved their point. It is my (somewhat limited) understanding that monogenism (if this term simply means all humans descended from one set of common parents) is still a perfectly good scientific theory, and that there is evidence that cannot be explained by polygenism. I am in no way, shape, or form competent to analyze or discuss the evidence. My point is simply that if you think you've "proven" something here, you have not, at least to me.

JV

My point is simply that if you think you've "proven" something here, you have not, at least to me.

Brother Cadfael, as you yourself admitted, you don't have any expertise with genetics.

Neither will I profess to be an expert.

But I've spoken with experts, and, no, biologically speaking, monogenism will not work. Those 58 alleles demand 29 original people immediately, and far more to account for the genetic variation we see today.

So unless you have another theory than the one I posted, the argument "You haven't proven it because I don't understand it" really doesn't work.

Brother Cadfael

JV,

I wasn't trying to convince you that monogenism was better than polygenism, as I said, I don't have the tools to do that.

I was trying to convince you that your argument was not convincing to me, a task at which I have apparently succeeded. So my "argument," which had a fairly limited purpose, did, in fact, work.

JV

Alright, Brother Cadfael.

We know biological monogenism of the "there were 2 anatomically modern humans at some point in time" does not work.

You don't accept the theory of mating with unsouled hominids.

What else do you propose that reconciles modern scientific knowledge with Catholic exegesis of Genesis?

JV

Just wanted to ask JR Stoodley, SDG, Jordan Potter, and others to jump in.

Some of the Bible vs. science stuff can be dismissed or set aside for its relative irrelevance to salivific history.

But, obviously, nothing is more important to salvation history than the Creation and what went wrong with Man, and here we seem to have science running up against and rebuking theology.

The only other alternative I can propose, and I will admit from the start that this is totally outlandish, is that Adam and Eve were somehow given, not 2 alleles each, but 29 or more so as to account for that 58-allele number which scientists trace back as of 125,000 years ago, with the emergence of anatomically modern human beings.

Let us remember that the 10,000 number does not mean that scientists have in their possession 10,000 skeletons dating back 125,000 years.

They have human DNA revealing a lineage's polymorphism of 58 alleles and, by way of accounting for the unlikelihood of only 29 humans preserving this variation over thousands of years, posit a larger group (10,000) to maintain the variation.

So, what say others?

Who were Adam and Eve, when did they live, who else was with them, were they ensouled humans or unsouled hominids, and did their kids mate with each other and procreate some sort of genetic mutant possessing dozens of alleles, or did spiritual humans mate with biologically human but unsouled hominids, resulting in souled offspring?

Or is there another solution altogether?

J.R. Stoodley

I havn't read through all the posts, but from what I have read I can say this.

I know enough science to follow JV's "gobbley-gook" and it looks legit. If it is a forgery it was done by someone with a lot of knowledge of genetics. The most likely explanation is that this is real research and real results.

I do not accept JV's explanation of the "daughters of men" and all that, but the idea that early humans mated with non-human hominids does seem the most logical explanation. As this thread has shown, it is possible to come up with all kinds of possible explanations for the genetic diversity of humanity. Perhaps we can never know the real answer with certainty.

What still concerns me is the actual assertions Genesis seems to make, like the location of Edan in southeastern Mesopotamia, the geneologies with the ages of everyone, Noah's flood, etc. How do you deal with this? So far no explanations seem to explain how the text can be so explicit about something and yet somehow not assert it.

Jared Weber

Jordan Potter: Why would the theory of demons mating with humans not be possible? The theory is that a succubus would "mate" with a man, obtaining his genetic material, then either transfer that to an incubus or become an incubus and then mate with a woman. If modern day scientists can do it, a demon could easily do it. (Where do you think they got the idea for invitro fertilization to begin with?)

Jordan Potter

"Adam and Eve procreate and have Cain and Seth. But Cain and Seth need wives to further propagate the human race. The Nephilim/giants/'daughters of men' of Genesis 6 are prime mating partners."

I'm afraid you have misread the text. The Nephilim are the offspring of the marriage of sons of God with the daughters of men. Obviously there could not have been any "daughters of men" -- the Hebrew actually means "daughters of Adam," "women of the human race" -- until after Cain and Seth began to have children and descendants. That is what Gen. 6:1 says: men (adam) began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them. The daughters of men are not subhuman animals, they are women who, according to the Hebrew, are daughters, descendants, of Man, of Adam.

Notice that these daughters of men become the WIVES of the sons of God. The text isn't talking about human-like animals, because animals are incapable of marriage. This isn't just sexual activity or mating, it's marriage.

"Not only that, but, immediately after noting that these sons of God and daughters of men were mating with each other, God notes how wicked man has become. If man were merely mating with his own ensouled species, why such wickedness?"

The text explains that, I think, in Gen. 6:2, where it refers to the sin of polygamy (cf. Gen. 4:19), and in Gen. 6:5, where it refers to evil thoughts and an evil intent, and in Gen. 6:11-12, where it refers to violence and moral corruption. But it began with the perversion of marriage in Gen. 6:2, when sons of God married as many daughters of wives as they pleased.

"The only way to preserve monogenism is to hold to this or a similar theory, because there were simply never only 2 biologically modern humans (note the above about 58 alleles)."

Assuming those scientists are examining the evidence correctly and reasoning properly, I can accept their conclusion. However, they aren't reasoning properly. They have accepted as foundational premises of their logic (i.e., of their hypothesis) a number of assumptions that may or may not be true. Knock out any one of their assumptions, such as their guesses about when anatomically modern humans and culturally modern humans emerged, and their conclusions are rendered erroneous. In addition, they are making calculations of probability based on how they believe evolution worked, how long it took, how frequently genetic variationds and mutations occur. But the grounds for those calculations are suspect, so the results of the calculations are suspect too.

"Why would the theory of demons mating with humans not be possible?"

Actually I said it doesn't "seem" possible. The most common objection that is raised are the words of Jesus, that angels neither marry nor are given in marriage. Admittedly, that tells us what angels do and don't do, not what they can and can't do. The idea of angels, whether fallen or not, assuming real human bodies appears nowhere else in Scripture (note that in Tobit 12:19, St. Raphael explains that his human form was not real). Could demons do that? Perhaps. Maybe it is something they were able to do, but something God no longer allows them to do. It does make one wonder, though, how fallen angels would have acquired the ability not only to have sex with human females but even to impregnate them. It would be like a man engaging in sexual activity with a chimpanzee -- unnatural and sterile, unless the fallen angel somehow acquired a real human body.

But my own view is that of Africanus (and the view found in the apocryphal "Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan"), that "sons of God" refers to religious men, perhaps the Sethites as Africanus thought, perhaps priests of some primeval religious, falling into sin and beginning to engage in the sin of polygamy, as Lamech the Cainite is said to have done. This seems to be a coherent reading of the ancient legends of Gen. 3-6.

Jared Weber

Jordan Potter: A demon does not have to acquire a body to manipulate matter or the minds of humans. It really would not be a stretch at all to simply transfer sperm to the womb of some poor woman. I'm not saying this is the definitive interpretation of the Nephalim phenomenon; I'm just saying it's not that big of a stretch.

"So far no explanations seem to explain how the text can be so explicit about something and yet somehow not assert it."

It's necessary to ascertain the genre of the portion of Scripture under discussion. As I mentioned above, it appears that the Book of Judith makes historical claims about an Assyrian king named Nebuchadnezzar and his general Holofernes, whereas it is now know that such persons did not exist (they may have been intentionally based on real persons with different names, though).

In the same way, a biblical text in Genesis can be "explicit" about certain statements, but if it can be shown that there are good reasons to doubt it is making a literal historical assertion, then it would be wrong to read the text literally. We don't have to believe, for example, that God literally placed His lips against Adam's nostrils and literally breathed air into Adam's lungs. The language used is understood by everyone (except the most blinkered hyperliteralist fundamentalists and liberal, modernistic scholars) to have been metaphorical or poetic, referring to the fact that God brought Adam to life. Similarly, the sacred author apparently never intended us to take Gen. 1's reference to "days" in a strictly literal sense. If he did, then we'd have to wonder how most of the events of Gen. 2 could have happened in just a few hours on a Friday afternoon.

The key here is what the sacred author intended. If he meant to write a historical account (even one that is phrased in the poetic, popular idiom of the ancient Hebrws), then we must accept it as history, not merely a myth or a folktale intended as an allegory. It seems pretty hard to see Gen. 1-11 as only a folktale or a fable -- the author clearly makes a lot of assertions in those chapters that he means his readers to accept as true. Since he asserted those things, and what he asserted was asserted by the Holy Spirit, we can be sure those things are true, even if we don't know exactly how to reconcile the narrative with the available evidence of man's prehistory. We just need to use care in sifting out the historical assertions from the popular expressions of the ancient Hebrews. As Pope Pius XII wrote in Humani Generis 38-39:

"In a particular way must be deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament. Those who favor this system, in order to defend their cause, wrongly refer to the Letter which was sent not long ago to the Archbishop of Paris by the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies. This letter, in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents.

"Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things, which are more the product of an extravagant imagination than of that striving for truth and simplicity which in the Sacred Books, also of the Old Testament, is so apparent that our ancient sacred writers must be admitted to be clearly superior to the ancient profane writers."

Jordan Potter

Whoops, that previous post was from me.

Jared, the problem I have with your suggestion is that it doesn't seem to do justice to the reference to marriage in Gen. 6:2. It seems like the sacred author is saying more than just a demon manipulating genetic material. But as I indicated, the demon scenario is possible. I just don't find it very likely.

Jared Weber

Jordan: Okay. Regardless of what theory one espouses with this, I wonder what the word that the word "marriage" was translated from would actually mean. Especially since marriage, per se, is not possible in your scenario either (which is credible, too, mind you, and I find the idea quite interesting--if really disgusting) given the whole "a human male can only marry a human female" law.

JV

So, what can be concluded about how we have those 58 alleles and 10,000 common ancestors?

Is there ANY attempt to reconcile that with monogenism beyond the Nephilim theory?

Jordan Potter

Or the "theory" that Eve was created with a uniquely diverse batch of ova. . . .

J.R. Stoodley

Or an unusual amount of mutation in the early generations.

Or Adam or both Adam and Eve could have had unusual gametes.

There are probably many other possibilities too, each as unlikely sounding as the next.

J.R. Stoodley

Personally, what seems most likely to me is that the wives of Cain and Seth really were their sisters, but that in later generations some humans sinfully (but provedentially) "mated" with their non-human relatives. At least some of the progeny from these unions were truely human (again I suspect there must be a physical basis for human nature, probably in the form of a single defining mutation, in which case it would be passed on to about half of the progeny). In this way genes from the non-human Homo sapiens population got into the human genome. Unlike anything else proposed this explanation is simple and plausible.

Unless any such evolutionary senario conflicts with the asserted history in Genesis. This is still an issue.

Jordan Potter

"There are probably many other possibilities too, each as unlikely sounding as the next."

But no more unlikely than a healthy, normal man being conceived in and born of a virgin.

"Regardless of what theory one espouses with this, I wonder what the word that the word 'marriage' was translated from would actually mean."

The normal meaning of the Hebrew words in Gen. 6:2, translated into English as "took wives for/to themselves," is marriage. In ancient Hebrew culture, a man did not "marry" a woman, rather he "took a wife to himself." In ancient custom, a Jewish marriage began with betrothal, the kiddushin. Then, after a period of preparation, the husband and wife had a formal and public celebration at the marriage supper, which included a rite called the nissuin. At that point, the husband "took his wife unto himself," and the couple would consummate the marriage and begin to live together under their own roof. The language of Gen. 6:2 indicates that the "sons of God" entered into marriages with the "daughters of men."

"Especially since marriage, per se, is not possible in your scenario either (which is credible, too, mind you, and I find the idea quite interesting--if really disgusting) given the whole 'a human male can only marry a human female' law."

To be clear, I don't favor the interpretation that humans mated with non-human hominids. Such a thing, if it happened, would be a form of bestiality, not marriage. I prefer the interpretation that "sons of God" means men noted for their religion, priests perhaps, maybe the Sethites but perhaps not just the Sethites. The earliest known interpretation, however, is that "sons of God" refers to fallen angels, as it says in such early sources as Enoch and Jubilees and even some copies of the Septuagint.

Barring any clear guidance from the Magisterium, though, I don't think we're going to get any definite answers to any of the questions we've been wondering about in this discussion.

J.R. Stoodley

I also do not think Gen 6:1-4 refers to mating with nonhuman Homo sapiens (though this still may well have happened, and is I think the most plausible explanation for our genetic diversity). Nonhumans would certainly not be called sons of God, but neither do I think they would be called daughters of men.

My own idea is that this may refer to the birth of paganism. In this case the original interpretation of the sons of God being demons would remain, but the demons taking wives would refer to the demonic influence of the matriarchal, shamanic early pagan religion, which later "gave birth to" the patriarchal, hero-worshiping kind of paganism. Just a thought.

NOE

Genial asumir la controversia con altura sin perder de vista que en nada lesiona la esencia de la fe cristiana, el que un pueblo como el judio haya tomado prestados elementos de otras culturas para construir su prehistoria universal...

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