The assured results of Son of Man scholarship

“Virtually certain”:

“Personally I think it is highly likely that the tradition of Jesus referring to himself as the ‘son of man’ does indeed go back to Jesus himself…. The probability in this case is so high that it can be regarded as virtually certain.”

– James D.G. Dunn, “The Son of Man in Mark”, p. 24

“A probability bordering on certainty”:

“Alle Worte vom kommenden Menschensohn stammen mit einer an Sicherheit grenzenden Wahrscheinlichkeit nicht vom historischen Jesus”

“No saying about the coming Son of Man, with a probability bordering on certainty, comes from the historical Jesus.”

– Philipp Vielhauer, “Gottesreich und Menschensohn in der Verkündigung Jesu”, p. 71

triumph_of_christ

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The Nephilim were descended from Pre-Adamites with no Souls: A New (Scientific) Theory from Geologist Gregg Davidson

neanderthal-human-sex
For those who consider the Bible to be the flawless word of God, the Primeval History in Genesis 1-11 provides some tough challenges. Where did Cain get a wife from? Who was Cain scared of when he went to settle in the east? Why do the races look different if all share a common ancestor in Adam (and in Noah, who lived not much longer than 4000 years ago)? And who were the sons of God in Gen 6:1-4: divine beings, angels, or merely humans, and – if human – were they descended from Seth or from the cursed lineage of Cain? Famously, Isaac La Peyrère (1596–1676) answered these questions by claiming that, before Adam had been created, there were other human beings alive on earth. For La Peyrère, these other humans were all Gentiles; Adam was not the first human being, but he was the first Jew.

A recent article by geologist Gregg Davidson, “Genetics, the Nephilim, and the Historicity of Adam“, also attempts to address some of these issues. Its aim is to account for the conflict between the Bible’s claim that Adam and Eve were the first humans created by God and the scientific consensus that the human species is descended from other animals. The article was published in the self-claimed “academic journal” of the American Scientific Affiliation, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (vol. 67 no. 1, March 2015: 24-34). Gregg Davidson’s theory follows La Peyrère’s in claiming that there were hominids before the creation of Adam and Eve. But Davidson also claims that God distinguished Adam and Eve from all the other hominids due to the fact that he endowed them with souls. It appears that the other hominids were soul-less. And how did the Nephilim get created? When there was cross-breeding between the en-souled humans and the soul-less hominids, this resulted in the creation of the Nephilim, a group that Gen 6:4 describes as the result of breeding between the “sons of God/gods” and the “daughters of men”.

In the proposed model, God chose an individual hominid pair to endow with souls, separating them spiritually, relationally, and cognitively from their otherwise biologically equivalent contemporaries. After being removed from Eden, limited (and forbidden) interbreeding took place between Adam and Eve’s progeny and still-extant hominids, including more distantly related hominid species such as Neanderthals, resulting in offspring with unique characteristics referred to as Nephilim. Such unions can potentially account for a present human population that derived from a genuine first human couple, while also carrying genetic evidence of contributions from a much larger hominid population. This model simultaneously offers a plausible explanation for Cain’s fear at the time of his banishment, and the enigmatic identity of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6.

The article by Gregg Davidson displays much of the typical anxiety about the boundaries of the human which we find in many historical and contemporary discussions of those liminal creatures, the Nephilim. Davidson insists, in one particularly consternated passage, that while the lower animals might be “soulish”, only humans have actual souls:

The higher animals are often spoken of today as soulish creatures, meaning that they possess some degree of decision-making capacity and conscience experience that goes beyond simple instinct. Soulish characteristics may include loyalty, affection, pleasure, excitement, curiosity, sadness, or a measure of self-awareness. The reason we have such a word in our theological vocabulary is that we assume the behavior of the higher animals resembles that of a soul-bearing human, though lacking the spiritual identity that makes them subject to eternal reward or punishment after death. A soul-bearing creature – what we think of today as a human – has mental and relational capacities that go well beyond soulishness, such as a cognitive understanding of justice and mercy, the ability to create and appreciate art, the desire to understand why things are the way they are, the ability to ponder and communicate abstract ideas, the desire to know truth, and the sense that there is a realm or existence that is beyond the physical. When the Bible speaks of creation in the image of God, it is not a physical appearance, but possession of such characteristics that allow human beings to be God’s relational representatives on this earth. As creatures lacking a soul, hominids living at the time of Adam and Eve may well have had behaviors that were much more soulish than those of the most advanced primates of today, but still only soul-ish.

Soulish, but not soul-bearing. Got the difference?

But what is most interesting – for avid Remnant of Giants readers – is Davidson’s proposed explanation for the creation of the Nephilim. They resulted from the divinely prohibited interbreeding of humans and Neanderthals. Or, failing that, Davidson adds, there was inter-breeding between humans and some other soul-less hominids. This, incidentally, explains why they were Giants!

… if the timing of Genesis 6 coincides with the period of overlap between humans and Neanderthals, the heavier musculature of the Neanderthals could certainly have resulted in offspring with enhanced strength or unique physical characteristics that made it natural to refer to them by a special name. (If farther back in time, then a similar argument can be made for an earlier variety of hominid.)

The genetic basis is simple (not to mention highly improbable):

Though this model equates the “sons of God” with hominids and the “daughters of men” with humans, it works equally well if these are reversed. Such a scenario perhaps fits better with the tendency for males to bring females back to their tribe. To preserve the ancestry of all living humans back to mitochondrial Eve, this simply requires that the progeny of all female-hominid/male-human unions eventually failed to produce daughters.

So if one simply accepts a literal understanding of Genesis 1-3, and Paul’s belief in an historical Adam, the existence of souls in humans, and the non-existence of souls in non-human animals, then Davidson has provided a logically possible way also to accept the findings of modern genetic science.

The model preserves an understanding of a first sin (whether original or ancestral) as described both in Genesis and in the writings of Paul, and also potentially resolves the biblical conundrums of who Cain was afraid of in Genesis 3 [sic], and the enigmatic identity of the “sons of God” and the Nephilim in Genesis 6.

It’s a fantastic theory. Literally.

It seems that La Peyrère’s Pre-adamite theory has experienced something of a comeback in 2015. Pre-adamites also featured – although conceived somewhat differently – in the book authored earlier in 2015 by John H. Walton and N.T. Wright, The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015). What many other people see as the clear conflict between Bible and modern science has prompted some highly creative harmonizations.

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New Book on Goliath and his family: Goliath’s Legacy

Lukasz Niesiolowski-Spano - Not a Philistine


Łukasz Niesiołowski-Spanò – Not a Philistine

Harrassowitz has just published an English version of Łukasz Niesiołowski-Spanò’s book on the Philistines and other Sea Peoples: Goliath’s Legacy: Philistines and Hebrews in Biblical Times (Nov 2015). The book was originally published in Polish as Dziedzictwo Goliata: Filistyni i Hebrajczycy w czasach biblijnych (2012).

My task in writing this book has been to examine the impact of the Sea Peoples, especially the Philistines on the local population, particularly the Hebrews.
Łukasz Niesiołowski-Spanò

Also:

Table of Contents and other front matter here.

 

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The New Testament…

new_testament

Similarly, I think Philip Davies describes the NT as that little “appendix to the Hebrew Bible”.

(Of course, as Derrida taught us, we must resist the traditional logic of the supplement with its pernicious logocentrism. That goes without saying.)

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Are there cats in the Bible? Maybe, yes

nativity-scene-with-cat

It’s often said that there are no cats in the Bible – referring to the animal which became the domestic house cat (Felis catus or Felis silvestris catus).

But is that true?

There’s a good case to be made that the biblical Lilith was a cat.

It’s true that later rabbinic tradition understood Lilith to be a demon. In one rabbinic tradition, for example, Lilith is an incubus demon, collecting the sperm ejaculated from men’s nocturnal emissions, and using it to create demonic babies (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 151b). And in one medieval tradition, Lilith becomes the first wife of Adam, before Adam left her for a more submissive woman, who didn’t demand that she always must be on top (The Alphabet of ben Sirach).

But in the Bible, the lilith (לִילִית) appears only in one verse, where she simply appears alongside the mention of ordinary animals. The lilith is quite probably, therefore, simply another animal. In Isaiah 34.14, the lilith is named alongside three other four-footed animals which commonly occupy ruins or the wilderness, probably (depending on the translation), the wildcat, the hyena, and the goat.

The cat was, after all, widely known and partially domesticated by the late first millennium BCE, all the way from eastern Asia through to Africa and Europe. People back then knew that cats were extremely useful in getting rid of rodents and their accompanying disease. So it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if there were one mention of a cat in the Old Testament.

Consider too, that the cat is most active at night, which might explain the apparent connection of ‘lilith’ to the Hebrew for night (לילה). The etymology is not found in other Semitic languages, but there was a wide variety of Semitic terms used for “cat”. Then there’s the old folk wisdom that you don’t let a cat near a sleeping child’s cradle or they snuff out their breath, which might have developed into the later legend about Lilith as a demon who kills infant children. Lastly, the medieval Spanish Jewish representation of Lilith is “El Broosha”, who is … a big black cat.

So, maybe there is one mention of a cat in the Bible. And maybe baby Jesus and the young John the Baptist used to play with their pet cat, as in the painting by Federico Barocci:

Federico Barocci, 'The Madonna of the Cat' (ca. 1575)

Federico Barocci, ‘The Madonna of the Cat’ (ca. 1575)

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Don Verdean: A Film telling the Truth about Biblical Archaeology

Don Verdeen movie poster, with Sam Rockwell as Don Verdeen, holding the skull of Goliath he "uncovered".

Don Verdeen movie poster, with Sam Rockwell as Don Verdeen, holding the skull of Goliath he “uncovered”.

New at the Box Office (December 11, 2015) is Don Verdean, a film satirizing the world of biblical archaeology. It’s a hard job trying to satirize the field of biblical archaeology – which regularly makes outrageous statements about finds which allegedly support this or that thing in the Bible which themselves seem to be satirical. And what Yosef Garfinkel pronounces about Gath or what Eilat Mazar says about the City of David is often sidesplittingly hilarious – even if unintentionally so.

Yet Don Verdean looks like an entertaining watch for those who see the funny side of biblical archaeology and evangelical culture:

The problem is, as The Atlantic comments, many of those who will get the main joke in Don Verdean have problems laughing at themselves:

Can American Christians take a joke? The question will be tested by the new film Don Verdean, a satire about a Christian archeologist who tours churches showcasing the “biblical” artifacts he has unearthed—from the shears used to cut Samson’s hair to the Goliath’s skull…

Don Verdean probably never had a chance. It’s a satire set in American church culture, which means it will offend those Christians who don’t find that funny,” writes Alissa Wilkinson, chief film critic at Christianity Today. “And a lot of its humor relies on the audience’s insider knowledge of the obsessions and verbal tics of a subculture to which many of them don’t belong.”

The line between a giggle and a groan is often thin, and much religious comedy is just ridicule offered in bad taste. But when done right, religious humor in film, television, literature, and stand-up can be a gateway to important conversations and even instill listeners with humility. So Christians need to learn to laugh at themselves.

I’ll be keen to see it, anyway. But I do like to laugh at biblical archaeology.

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The BFG Movie Trailer is out!

“It was the witching hour, when the boogeyman comes out…”

The talents of three of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl, Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg – finally unite to bring Dahl’s beloved classic “The BFG” to life. Directed by Spielberg, Disney’s “The BFG” tells the imaginative story of a young girl and the Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. The BFG (Mark Rylance), while a giant himself, is a Big Friendly Giant and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country. Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. Giants like Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) on the other hand, are twice as big and at least twice as scary and have been known to eat humans, while the BFG prefers Snozzcumber and Frobscottle. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie, a precocious 10-year-old girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious giant who has brought her to his cave, but soon comes to realize that the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming, and, having never met a giant before, has many questions. The BFG brings Sophie to Dream Country where he collects dreams and sends them to children, teaching her all about the magic and mystery of dreams. Having both been on their own in the world up until now, their affection for one another quickly grows, but Sophie’s presence in Giant Country has attracted the unwanted attention of the other giants, who have become increasingly more bothersome. Sophie and the BFG soon depart for London to see the Queen (Penelope Wilton) and warn her of the precarious giant situation, but they must first convince the Queen and her maid, Mary (Rebecca Hall), that giants do indeed exist. Together, they come up with a plan to get rid of the giants once and for all.

 

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