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(Note: I'm back from vacation with another episode in my continuing exploration of the Bible. You can read my series introduction here.)
I originally come from an unchurched family. We never went to church, even on Easter and Christmas, though my mother expressed a vague belief in God. You could say I rode the first wave of post-Christianity in America. Oh sure, I went to church with friends once in a while, but those where social events, not a spiritual ones. To put it bluntly, I never really got it until much later in my life.
It really came down to the fact that when I tried to read the Bible when I was younger it was the King James version. By the time I got to Genesis 5, my eyes glazed over when I hit the first set of “begots.”
It wasn’t until I was much older, and had a New International Version (NIV) in my hands, that I could make sense of the Old Testament’s long periods of concentrating strictly on genealogy. The NIV doesn’t use the word “begot”, since it is a fresh translation into modern English, but even in the NIV wading into all “who’s who” of the Old Testament can be daunting.
Genesis 5 describes the line from Adam to Noah’s sons. I read this one closely, not glazing over and rushing through, and actually learned a few things. Before I get into the meat of the scripture, there are a few points I need to cover.
Up to now, Genesis can be described as transforming from poetic to parable. Now, in Genesis 5, it makes the leap to historical. Time as we know it becomes important as the cast of characters grow exponentially. With this in mind, some people begin this historical journey by counting the years, from birth to death, from Adam onward in order to calculate the exact age of the universe. This is a bad idea for three important reasons.
Reason One: Adam’s existence straddles two different ways of marking time – God’s way and mortal’s way. Recall in Episode 2, where I cover Genesis 1 and the 6 Days of Creation. In Genesis 1:14 God said on Day 4, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years…” The human concept of time, based on celestial movements, isn’t created until God’s Day 4. Logically, the first 6 days are on a completely different scale, and “counting backward” from God Day 1 won’t work. The Six Days of Creation could be six days or six billion years. I don’t know and will never know. The timeline and physics of the universe’s creation are questions better left to science. Therefore, we have no good beginning “anchor point" for the Genesis 5 genealogy.
Reason Two: Adam wasn’t born of woman like the rest of humanity, he was created from dust and the breath of God. He doesn’t have a birthday as we know it with which to begin the count of years.
Reason Three: Genesis 2 infers Adam and Eve were immortal until they took a bite of the forbidden fruit. They were, therefore, timeless until that point. In my previous episodes, I break with tradition and place Adam’s creation on God Day 3, not 6, based on the clear description of the world surrounding the Garden of Eden at the time of his creation. As I stated earlier, a way to track time celestially wasn’t possible until God Day 4. One day or a billion years, perhaps it all felt like a single warm afternoon to Adam, who may have not had ANY sense of time.
How does one, therefore, calculate a “birthday” for Adam between two time-scales, with no birthday, and when for the first portion of his existence, he didn’t age? You can’t. Don’t try, because the universe isn’t 6000 years old. Genesis isn’t designed for that, and using it that way won’t work. What starting point could one safely use, then?
Only one will work…the moment Adam and Eve took their fatal bite. First, the Bible now provides an accurate time reference using the common solar year. Second, at that moment, Adam and Eve were essentially “born again,” but this time into sin (New Testament foreshadowing, huh?). Third, Adam and Eve are no longer immortal; time actually means something to them now. Everything before this time passed as if in a dream. With that said, we shall begin our historical journey from the “bite” forward.
5 This is the written account of Adam’s family line.
When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created.
When I see ideas and concepts rehashed and repeated, but slightly differently, like Genesis 5:1, it leads me to think parts of the Old Testament might be compilations of different ancient manuscripts, with different authors, loosely edited together. Like I said, I’m not a Bible scholar, so don’t take anything I say with any authority. I’m just musing.
Now to the heart of Genesis 5, the lineage.
.There is actually a methodology to this genealogy, all of which is paternal, which I call the “three sentence” structure. I’m sure experts call it something else. Each generational paragraph begins with the “had lived” sentence, which is how long the patriarch lived before having their first son. That is followed with the “was born” sentence, which states how long they lived after their first son was born and if they had any other children. The end of the paragraph is the “lived a total “sentence, which gives the total number of years the patriarch lived. With this, one can mark the passage of time in the Old Testament.
3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. 4 After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 5 Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.
As stated earlier, I make the assumption Adam’s timeline begins at the moment his long immortality comes to and end and he begins the long road to physical death, 930 years later. This brings to mind a very important question, why did all these patriarchs live so long?
There is no forensic archeological evidence of anyone living even nearly this long, though there are several of myths and legends across the ancient world about unique races of long-lived humans. (Feel free to buy my novel BLACK SEA GODS, as my fans know I’ve done quite a bit of research into these myths. Don’t worry, I’ll wait until you get back. Did you buy it? Good. I’ll continue.) Its logical to speculate this is a residual effect of Adam’s previous immortality, the afterglow of eternity, now passed down to his descendants. I am also going to speculate this long life was unique to the line of Adam. SPOILER ALERT: The farther the line of Adam drifts from the Garden, the shorter their life spans get.
BEGET ABOUT IT ALREADY!: Genesis 5:6-21 repeats this methodology for the generations of Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, and Enoch. And that’s about all there is to that. Things get interesting again in Genesis 5:21 with Enoch.
21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years.24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
This is commonly interpreted as Enoch being taken by God without actually dying. I read it that way, too. For one thing, it doesn’t end like the other paragraphs with “…and he died.” Why doesn’t the Bible talk more about him? There is a non-canonized (i.e. it didn’t make the official cut to get into the Bible) book of scripture called The Book of Enoch, supposedly written by the man himself, but I’m not going to talk to that. Bottom line, the official version of scripture gives this guy a footnote and moves right along. Bummer, I’d liked to have learned more about him. SPOILER ALERT: This happens to one other person in the Old Testament, too.
25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. 26 After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died.
Enoch’s son Methuselah didn’t get the e-ticket to heaven, but he did win the “longest lived in the Bible” trophy, at a whopping 969 years.
28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. 29 He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” 30 After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died.
32 After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.
Using the genealogy of Genesis 5, I count about 1,656 years since Eve handed Adam the fruit and invited him to take a bite. To keep it simple in my simple brain, I’m going to call my timescale “P.E.” – Post-Eden. I was going to call it P.B. – Post-Bite, but it sounded too much like “Peanut Butter.” I’m going to use P.E. until I can find some solid, universally accepted benchmark in the Old Testament to convert to B.C. (please, don’t get me started on “B.C.E.”)
The year is 1656 P.E. and a man named Noah is about to embark on perhaps the most important mission ever given to a human being.
God’s patience with mankind is about to run out.
Brian Braden is the author of THE ILLUSION EXOTIC, the historical fantasy novel BLACK SEA GODS and several other exciting books. Please support this blog with your patronage.