5 July 2020

Uncle Aaron’s Bible Stories – On the Sons of God and the Nephilim

I decided to make this a post of its own as the notes on the Flood Part 1 were becoming more treatise than blog post. I want to note that I’m writing this as if it actually happened. I believe that the Nephilim are ancient mythological interpretations of something in the world the ancients did not understand.

There are two sets of beings mentioned in Genesis 6, the Sons of God, and the Nephilim. Entire books have been written based on the first five verses of the chapter. Some of these books are considered scripture by certain Christian churches, most are considered apocryphal, however.

The Sons of God

The Sons of God, or bene elohim in Hebrew, are particularly interesting to me. The typical explanation is that the bene elohim are fallen angels or demons. Many, if not most Christian denominations believe that fallen angels and demons are one and the same. At any rate they seem to be the same as the “Watchers” mentioned in the Book of Enoch. These Watchers are mentioned briefly in the book of Daniel. 

The Bible does not spend much time on the subject, and the conflation of the two is based more on supposition and tradition than anything in scripture. Because of this I’ll use the term “Sons of God”, “Watchers” and “Bene Elohim” to refer to them, just as Genesis 6 (and other passages) does.

To really dig into the concept of The Sons of God, one must first understand the idea of “God’s Heavenly Council”. These bene elohim are part of God’s divine council, and are for lack of a better term ‘gods’. As noted we call them angels today. The concept comes up fairly often in the Old Testament, the best example I know is 1 Kings 22:19-23 (and a slightly different telling in 1 Chronicles 18). The passage indicates God consulting with a heavenly advisory board (called a host) on how to set up King Ahab so he would die in battle.

The relationship between the wives of the Watchers is something that’s kind of hard to nail down. Most traditional interpretations say that the Watchers raped these women, or that the women were wicked. There’s no mention of rape or evil women in these verses. 

The phrase ‘took them wives of all those they chose’ could mean they raped the women. However, since wife now means ‘spouse’ and not just ‘woman’, I can’t see why that word would be used in modern translations. I suspect the author was simply indicating these women had whatever was considered a normal relationship at the time with their divine husbands. This certainly could have included being forced into ‘marriage’, which was common, but it could just as likely have been mutually consenting. I’d imagine a baby Nephilim would be rather helpless just like human babies, and illegitimate children used to be frowned upon much more than now. So very few would have made it to adulthood without their father’s protection. 

Most of the information we have on the Sons of God come from The Book of Enoch, as well as other books that did not make it into either the Christian or Jewish canon. The Book of Enoch was apparently a popular read in Jesus’ day and for some time after until it was lost in the west. This explains why it is quoted directly in Jude, and Jesus seems to allude to concepts presented in it. It might have even been considered scripture back then, but I don’t know enough about that to make a guess. 

The Nephilim

The Nephilim are explicitly said to be the offspring of the bene elohim and human women in Genesis 6. Pretty straightforward, they were half human and half divine being. The Nephilim were supposed to have been wiped out in the flood, but then are still around after. 

What the word Nephilim actually means is a point of debate among many scholars. The Septuagint and older English translations just call them ‘giants’. Some translations call them ‘fallen ones’. Most of the recent English translations don’t bother to translate the word. It obviously meant something to the author and his readers, but we do not have anything but context clues today.

The text does not indicate the Nephilim were evil. In fact it almost says the opposite, that they were mighty, renowned men. Some translations like the New International Version and Young’s Literal Translation use the word ‘heroes’. Personally, I just think this is an ancient explanation for demigods like Hercules and other folk heroes and villains from other cultures. Cain himself was said to be the offspring of the serpent and Eve by some ancient Jews, so it is likely they had similar stories of other demigods themselves.

I suspect that the idea that the Nephilim were on the earth after the flood was an interpolation. Later parts of Genesis mention them in settings that are definitely supposed to be post-flood. Since the books of the Bible were written at different times by different authors it is conceivable that some of those authors may have not even been aware of Genesis’ existence and thus had no idea what it said about them. Nephilim like Og of Bashan might not have been seen as demigods, just really large men.

Og’s bed (or coffin/sarcophagus in some translations) measured some thirteen and a half feet long by six feet wide. It is commonly assumed that he needed such a large bed because he was probably ten feet tall. I suspect he had such a large bed because he was a king and wanted something grand. I myself own a queen size bed which is six feet eight inches long and five feet wide, I’m not even six feet tall nor are my shoulders five feet wide. Og’s bed would accommodate the tallest NBA player, his very tall wife, and have a little over five feet extra for a dog or two at the end. I see no reason to suspect he was much taller than seven foot five at most. 

This is assuming that the bed or coffin in Rabbah actually existed, and actually belonged to Og. Apparently in the ancient near east they would occasionally come across the bones of extinct elephants and mistake them for the skeletons of dead heroes. They’d dig up the bones and arrange them like they thought they were supposed to look and re-bury them in enormous coffins. If this was an iron sarcophagus of some kind, this might be exactly what happened.

Personally I think what the word Nephilim meant was generally understood in the author’s day, and over time it changed. Originally it could have meant ‘demigod’ but was later understood to mean something else, then even later it meant ‘giant’. So the author of Genesis 6 could have one meaning in mind, and the author of Numbers 21 had some similar but slightly differing ideas.

Imagine two hundred years from now someone says something like, “And they used rotary phones back then, and also afterwards, when people bought a phone someone from Ma Bell had to come into their house and install it.” We might be dealing with a similar concept. The people living two centuries from now probably will not use ‘phones’ in the way we do. Elon Musk will have become an immortal machine spirit and they’ll be on the fiftieth revision of whatever his brain implant idea turns into. They’ll have context clues, but they certainly won’t fully grasp the idea of an analog communication device that only works with audio, and sometimes permanently mounted to your wall. 

I bet fully half of the people who read the statement above don’t know what “Ma Bell” even means. 

Other Theories

One interesting idea I’ve run across lately is that the whole of the Old Testament narrative is actually about an ongoing war between the descendants of Eve and the descendants of the serpent. 

The idea behind this hypothesis is that the descendants of the serpent, or rather the descendants of the Watchers are waging war on God by corrupting mankind. One day a Messiah descended from Eve will come and ‘crush the head of the serpent’. 

In this view, or at least one variation of it, the reason for the flood was the corrupt offspring of the bene elohim. They were the cause of man’s wickedness, not anything inherently bad in humanity. I looked up a few sites on Judaism and it seems the Jewish view on the flood and the Christian view are the same: mankind sucked so bad that God decided everything needed a reboot.

Personally I tend towards this plain reading of scripture. The passages in question are straightforward and don’t appear to be using metaphor or ancient forgotten idioms to get it’s point across. There’s no reason to think these giants were more evil than regular human beings, or that Noah and his family were the last of the ‘purely human’ people on earth.

The Line of Seth

One idea is that the ‘bene elohim’ were the wicked line of Cain and the ‘daughters of men’ were the descendants of Seth. This is a common idea among various Christian groups. I think at the root of this is the idea that angels don’t have gender and thus can’t reproduce. It’s a way to rationalize the Bible in ways that it doesn’t really need to be rationalized. Assuming Cain’s descendants were human, what made the marriage of these cousins any different than the rest of mankind? It doesn’t. Cain’s line isn’t even said to be particularly evil either. 

My grandfather subscribes to a less silly theory that the Watchers were the descendants of Adam, and the daughters of men were just other people in the world. This makes a lot more sense in the context of the first creation story. This means that Cain didn’t marry his sister as there were people running around outside Eden. In this view Adam was either a special creation to tend the garden, or he was just one man that God set aside to tend the garden. I do not agree with this idea either as the bene elohim are referred to elsewhere as supernatural beings. 

Of the two my grandfather’s theory makes more sense than the Seth/Cain theory. 

Conclusion

The Nephilim were simply an ancient Hebrew story to explain the demigods in the myths and legends that were passed around at that time. They were supposed to have been mighty half-divine men who accomplished both great and terrible deeds, no different than Hercules, Perseus and Gilgamesh. 

If this is a topic that interests you from a fictional perspective, I highly recommend Brian Godawas “Chronicles of the Nephilim”. They’re a set of books that retells the Biblical narrative from Genesis to somewhere around David, with spin off books telling other fictional stories. He also has a set of books about Jesus and the End Times. They are based around the “Line of the Serpent’ idea, and they have thoroughly researched appendices and supplemental material to defend his ideas. His books were one thing that made me start thinking of these things from other perspectives. 

The regular versions are definitely for adults, but he’s released some less controversial teenager friendly “Young Adult” versions. 

21 June 2020

Uncle Aaron’s Bible Stories – The Flood Part 2

The flood waters rose and covered even the tallest mountains covering all of them in at least twenty two feet of water. Noah and his family stared at the utter destruction of everything they knew. God killed everything that lived on the land and draws air for breath. 

For one hundred and fifty days the ark floated on the water and Noah and his family desperately tried to keep the lions from eating the gazelles. Finally God remembered the people and animals on the ark and caused the wind to start blowing. God then realized this was a terrible way to get rid of that much water as it would take over five thousand years to evaporate nearly five miles of water with just wind and sunshine. Not to mention the water had to go somewhere. So He just punched a hole in the earth again and caused it to drain away faster. That wasn’t quite fast enough, and still ran into the problem of where to put it all, so He just made some of it disappear entirely.

The ark came to rest on Mount Ararat and Noah could not really see the ground. Mostly because Mount Ararat is a volcano and the ark landed in the caldera. Since he couldn’t get out of the ark, he took the smartest bird he had and let it go. He reasoned the bird wouldn’t come back if it found a place to land. So he let out a phoenix. The phoenix suffocated and died because of the lack of air at that height. This was unfortunate because they had to toss the other one out when it started molting to keep the ark from catching fire. A few days later he tried a raven, which circled a few times and came back.

Noah’s wife convinced him not to use a raven again because they only had two ravens, but they did have fourteen doves. The doves are kind of stupid but at least they won’t go extinct if a few of them died like the phoenix. So seven days later he sent out a dove, which returned after flying around a few times. After a few tries the dove came back with a leaf from an olive tree in its mouth. Noah waited another week before sending the dove out again, and this time it never came back.

Over the next seven days Noah had his family get the the animals ready to depart the ark. The people on the bottom deck put on their animal costumes and made sure they were mixed in with the animals.

“Ug not sure costume fool God,” the giant said, adjusting his giraffe costume over his head. Ug was twelve feet tall and while significantly taller than a juvenile giraffe, he was not nearly as tall as the average adult giraffe. His costume fit very tightly over his shoulders.

“Let me worry about God, you just follow the giraffes out for a while then ditch the costume. Remember the plan, we all meet back in the valley just west of here in a month,” Noah said.

“How Ug eat on trip? Ug need much food,” the giant asked, “Ug usually save cats and scare off bandits so villages feed Ug.”

Noah motioned for Ug to lean down, “See this olive leaf? Know what it means?”

“No.”

“Olive trees take years to get big enough for a dove to rest in much less make leaves. It only stopped flooding about a month and a half ago. It means God did not flood the whole world, just a part of it, and it probably was not as bad as it looked. There is plenty of food out there, I am sure of it. Eat one of the male giraffes if you need to. I’m only going to sacrifice one of them, and most of the females are pregnant.”

“Ug trust Noah, Ug be back in few days,” the giant said, getting in line with all the giraffes.

On the first day of the week Noah opened the door to the ark and he and his family somehow managed to herd the animals out in an organized fashion. Noah then started building an altar out of rocks and had his boys herd up a bunch of the clean animals for his sacrifice.

It was then that Noah put on the greatest, most elaborate barbecue of his life while the stowaways snuck off with the animals. His wife, daughter in laws and a few grand children nearly collapsed from exhaustion cleaning and butchering the animals so they could be grilled up. At the end of the day Noah’s sons had to prop him up and practically guide his hands like a puppet to slit the animal’s throats.

God smelled the barbecue from on high and descended to the earthly realm to partake. He and the family enjoyed the meal until they could simply not force any more meat in their mouths. The next day Noah’s wife would invent meat jerky so that all the food would not go bad.

“Noah I feel guilty for flooding the whole world like that. Look, you know I like your barbecues, and I’m setting aside all the animals of the world for my, I mean your consumption. Also I’m going to make the animals all afraid of you, that way you don’t have to worry so much about getting eaten,” God said to Noah the next morning while Noah helped hang the meat for drying.

“They’re already afraid of us, it makes it hard to hunt. What if you made them a bit less afraid? Especially the wild cattle.”

“Nah, I think it is better this way. Oh yes, don’t eat the blood with the meat, let their life-blood return to the earth. Also if anyone or anything kills a person, I am going to require a life. So if an animal kills a man, it will die. If a man kills another man, I will require his life. Also, tell your children to get to humping. I want you to populate the whole world again.”

“Will do God. Anything else?”

“I am putting my hunting bow up in the sky as a reminder to all of us that I won’t destroy the world again by water. Until the Earth is gone, days, nights and seasons will never cease. Which should be an obvious statement, but I know how your kind likes validation.”

Noah turned back around and saw two rainbows in the sky, “A double rainbow. What do they mean?”

“Means I have two bows,” God replied, “Got to have a spare in case the main one breaks. Leviathan is not going to kill himself.”

And that’s how Furries populated the earth.

Notes

There will have to be a part three to cover what little happened after the flood. The post would be a bit lengthier than I am comfortable with otherwise.

As I’ve written before, the flood story in Genesis is two narratives that have been woven together. These two narratives are good examples of an ancient near eastern understanding of the cosmos. The tallest mountains the authors would have been aware of were Mount Ararat in Turkey and Mount Damavand in Iraq. They are sixteen thousand and eighteen thousand feet tall respectively and the two tallest mountains in the middle east (unless you count Afghanistan as part of the middle east).

This shows how small the authors thought the world really was. It did not extend past a week or so trip from their home region. It also implies that they had the same idea of how earth is shaped as their contemporaries.

All the water on earth could not flood all of the dry land, much less cover the earth sufficiently to submerge the tallest mountains by 20 feet or so. It would be about four miles deep just to cover Mount Ararat. However, if you believed the earth existed in the middle of an essentially infinite ocean, and above the hard dome of the sky was also an infinite expanse of water, it appears plausible. It is also evident they had no idea about what happened to water when it evaporates. They must have thought it disappeared entirely instead of just being absorbed into the air and eventually released somewhere else.

In spite of what the young earth creationists say, there is no evidence for a world-wide flood. There is, however, some evidence of the Black Sea catastrophically flooding within human memory. Sometime between 12,000 B.C. and 5600 B.C. the Black Sea probably flooded violently. There are temples in Turkey that are dated from about 11,000 B.C., so people were building things there when this happened. The flood myths from the Middle East might just be a really ancient cultural memory of this event. Considering many people who have oral histories sometimes talk about events that happened hundreds and even thousands of years ago like it happened recently, this appears plausible to me.

The scholarship indicates that the story of Noah is a copy of the flood myth from the Epic of Gilgamesh. Having looked that story up, I have to agree. It’s basically a point for point retelling. The biggest difference seems to be that Utnapishtim’s flood might not have been global, just a really bad one. Also Utnapishtim took friends and family aboard his boat at the god’s command, I thought it might be interesting if Noah did the same.

As far as my portrayal of God liking barbecue, I think it is fitting. Most of these stories involve an animal sacrifice of some kind. It is my understanding that only part of the animal was burned up in most sacrifices, the rest was eaten either by the priests, or communally. It seems like the only time God gets involved in these old stories is when He smells the burning meat, which is what people use to get His attention. I can sympathize, I think grilling meat smells amazing.

Because of the emphasis on God desiring the meat of sacrificed animals I decided Noah must have been an amazing grill master with six centuries of practice under his belt. Noah might have used his grilling skills to distract God while his friends and family snuck off the ark in animal costumes. Hence, furries.

7 June 2020

Uncle Aaron’s Bible Stories – A Cynical Take on Noah’s Flood – Part 1

It came to pass that humanity had spread across all of the earth. Girl children began to be born almost immediately, but it took some time for people to acknowledge their existence.

Life on earth was that of constant hard work and toil. This hard work combined with adequate nutrition guaranteed that a great number of these girl children grew up to be hot women. Their hotness was probably what got them noticed in the first place.

With all the running around farms and ranches and the bouncing this caused, the daughters of men unknowingly garnered the notice of the Sons of God. Angels, as the Sons of God would later be called, descended from heaven to get a better look at the daughters of men.
Because of this creepy ‘watching’ the sons of God became known as ‘Watchers’.

Eventually the Watchers egged each other on until a few of them worked up enough courage to approach the women. Most of them found it wasn’t terribly difficult to talk to women, and soon most of the Watchers had a wife.

The Watchers had sex with their wives and children were born. The boys grew up tall and strong. They were the heroes and giants of the primordial age. Their deeds brought them great renown. No mention is given to the girls, one can safely assume they were equally heroic and prone to being smoking hot.

All human society eventually falls into decadence as a result of their success. The primordial civilizations were no different. The corruption was only made worse by a thousand year life span, and the divine blood coursing through some people’s veins.

Eventually God began to regret every life decision that led Him to create not only man, but everything that lives on the ground and in the air. Fish and marine mammals and reptiles had not pissed him off. Everyone, even God, loves seals, especially killer whales. Everyone loves killer whales. Except seals, they hate killer whales. This is probabably because seals are just nature’s protein bars.

Noah, however was a good man, and more importantly a skilled grill master, which God appreciated above all else. Noah, you see, had found grace in the stomach of the Lord. So God decided to hold off for a hundred and twenty years, giving Noah plenty of time to execute the manual labor portions of his plan.

“So, Noah, we really need to talk,” God said, while finishing off a rib.

“Sure God what’s up?” Noah asked, polishing off his last steak.

“The world is a really shitty place. There’s fighting all the time, people are doing really weird shit with animals and other things. Cross breeding horses with donkies and killing any of their livestock that aren’t different than what I created. My ‘grandchildren’ are also kind of a pain in the ass,” God replied, “I think we need a fresh start, I’m going to wipe everyone out.”

Noah stared at God for a moment, “Is this because of that idiot Krolv guy that’s been hiding in the mountains, eating his own babies and recruiting a cannibal army? Drogreb the Valiant and his clan are going to kill him and his clan next month when the river recedes a bit. Most of the giants are pretty nice too. For example, Ug the Simple does odd jobs for the villages around here in exchange for food. I feed him on the weekends, he doesn’t charge the villagers enough. Great guy, Ug.”

“Ok some of the grandkids are fine. But the vast majority aren’t doing what I asked. Just fighting all the time, no sacrifices. It’s pretty bad. Definitely need a fresh start. I’m going to have to ask you to build a giant boat and load some of all the animals on it,” God said, taking another beer.

“What’s a boat?” Noah asked.

“A giant floating box.”

“Float on what? The sea is miles and miles from here. Should I move?”

“No, I’m going to make it rain and flood the earth and wipe everything clean. Everyone’s and everything is going to drown. Get your three sons and their wives to help. Boat is going to be four hundred and fifty feet long, a tenth as tall and about a fifth as wide. Make some rooms in it, three decks, a few windows and a big door on the side. Construct it out of planed wood, and cover the whole thing in pitch to water-proof it. You’re going to fill it with food, and load two of every animal. I’ll get Enoch to some plans drawn up so you can remember it.”

“That’s huge. That’ll take like, a hundred years to build with just the eight of us,” Noah mused, stroking his beard, “I know, I’ll get grandpa, dad, mom, grandma, my father and grandfather in law, their families. Oh! And my cousins Jubal, Jabal, Tubal-Cain and their sister Naamah involved. They’re good at building things, and Tubal-Cain and his students can make the tools we need. I know cousin Lamech is a ruthless bastard, but he’s family and always did right by us when we needed him. Made those bandits fifty years ago crap themselves just by showing up. Might take a few years with all of us.”

“No, just your wife, three sons, the wives of your sons and any kids they pop out between now and then,” God replied, “Everyone else sucks and I hate them.”

“Even grandpa Methuselah? What did he do? And my dad Lamech? He’s not like my cousin Lamech at all, he’s always followed you. My brothers and sisters aren’t bad people either. I know you don’t care for my cousins on uncle Cain’s side, they aren’t bad people. If anyone can figure out how to build this thing, it’s Tubal-Cain. Plus you know, that cow you just ate is descended from Jabal’s own stock.”

“I said they all suck and I hate them. Especially the other Lamech, he’s a polygamist. Just eight people, that’s all I’m saving,” God said, folding His arms across his chest.

“Ok God, whatever you say.”

So Noah and his sons began building the boat. Secretly they reached out to their extended families for help and in a remarkably short time the project came together.

In the time it took to build the ark, Noah’s father Lamech had passed on at the young age of seven hundred and seventy seven. Noah’s grandfather Methuselah had not passed on, the boat was complete and the animals had nearly all been loaded.

There was still much room on the ark, especially on the secret fourth deck Noah and his cousins had built to smuggle family members on board. Japheth and the women folk had sewed intricate animal costumes for years leading up to the finishing of the ark.

A week before Flood Day God came back down to Noah with a change of plans. “Noah, I changed my mind. You are going to have to take seven pairs of clean animals with you. It will be half a year without your barbecue, and I am going to be craving it like you would not believe when this is all over,” God said, looking over the ark. He did not notice the extra floor.

Noah rounded up a few dozen more pairs of animals. Complaining the whole time about how his boss keeps changing his mind once the project is nearly complete.

God then caused it to rain and at first no one cared. Water falling from the sky was not that big a deal. Unfortunately it kept raining for forty whole days. Not just light rain either, sweeping torrents of rain that caused the sea levels to rise. It didn’t help that God had also decided to punch a hole in the earth and caused massive underground aquifers to release their water.

People started to panic around day thirty-five and beg to be let into the ark. Noah wanted to let them in, but the door to the ark was sealed with God’s own hand, and thus impossible to open.

So it was Noah and his family hunkered down for a long wait in the ark, waiting for the whole thing to be over with.

Continued in part 2…

Notes

Lot of notes for this one. I’m going to place my thoughts on the Sons of God and Nephilim as a separate post, otherwise this is turning into twenty five hundred word essay.

A few things about the story never made sense to me until recently. It’s not just the sheer unlikelihood of a global flood, but how the story is told. What I discovered in the last few years by reading and listening to scholarly works on the Old Testament is that the flood narrative is actually two stories that have been woven together. The best way to tell is when something is repeated but changed slightly, you’re seeing a part of two stories.

The most obvious place to see this is the number of animals Noah is supposed to take. In Genesis 6:19-21 He clearly tells Noah to take a pair of every kind of animal. He even gets specific that He wants birds and the ‘creeping things’ to be loaded in pairs.

Later in chapter seven, He tells Noah to take seven pairs of clean animals, and one pair of every other animal. Did He change his mind? No this is an element of a different story being included.

Why are there two stories? I suspect it was because the person compiling this had two groups of people he had to please. When a new translation of the Bible comes out, people tend to look up their favorite couple of verses to see if ‘they got it right’. I do not know if modern translators do this on purpose, but some translations appear to word certain key verses the same, sometimes even if the wording of nearly everything else is different.

The ancient compiler must have had a similar issue with people saying, “You blasphemer, Noah used a raven not a dove. Please go burn yourself at the stake. Then go to hell, which you do not believe exists but we do.” So to solve the problem he wove both stories together as best he could.

In spite of the text being relatively clear as to why God decides to flood the earth, there are many differing theories. Here they are in outline form:

  1. People became universally depraved and wicked.
    1. God decided He needed a do-over.
  2. The half-divine Nephilim were an abomination and God decided to purge them.
    1. The problem was the mingling of mortal and divine flesh.

These two theories lead to their own reasons why God chose to save Noah.

  1. Noah and his family were the only righteous people left.
  2. Noah and his family were the only people left who were totally human.

These ideas are not mutually exclusive, however there are problems with the Nephilim as reason for deluge hypothesis, but only if you discount extra-biblical works. Here’s my breakdown of the problem.

  1. It specifically states the Nephilim existed on earth after the flood.
    1. Where did they come from if Noah was purely human?
    2. Noah or some of his family simply were not purely human and the hypothesis is wrong.
  2. The Sons of God just resumed marrying human women after the flood and produced more Nephilim.
    1. Why did God allow this intermingling to continue after the flood?
    2. Simple answer: The Nephilim and their parents were not the reason for the flood.
    3. The only other logical answer is that God was/is incapable of preventing these unions and simply reduced the lifespan of people to lessen the damage they caused. Most people would find this a distasteful explanation

It’s possible that one group thought the giants were the reason for the flood in their story. The other group might have thought it was sin and the giants either had nothing to do with it, or they did not even believe in giants. One of these ideas probably came later than the other as ideas, culture, and theology evolved. The compiler probably belonged to the later, and did the best he could to make both groups happy.

A note on gopher wood.

Gopher wood in Genesis has nothing to do with gophers, which for people who don’t live in North America, they’re a pest rodent that digs tunnels under gardens and farms. Gopher is a transliterated word that the early translators into English might have thought was a species. As a kid I was told this was probably a treated wood of some kind, probably to prevent rot. My research for this post indicates the word means “planed”. So God really just tells Noah to build an ark out of planks. One source claimed it might have meant ‘reeds’ and that the ark was a giant reed boat. I like the former, but I’ve definitely seen old pictures of the ark drawn like a reed boat.

Noah is not shown in scripture to have smuggled family members on board. This is my way of resolving the problem with Nephilim being around after the flood. Noah simply smuggled his extended family and a few giants on board and they snuck off when the ark landed. Also it makes sense he’d attempt to try this. His grandfather died the same year as the flood, probably drowning in it.

Anyway, part two is coming soon.

27 May 2020

Uncle Aaron’s Bible Stories – Genealogy Break!

I couldn’t really think of a funny way to write about the genealogies in Genesis, because it’s just this guy is this other guy’s father with occasional “and he did this thing” peppered in. So, you just get my crappy amateur commentary. Note, I cannot read Hebrew, I can however match shapes to other shapes, especially in an interlinear Bible, so my speculation here is not coming from a place of deep understanding of the original languages these books were written in, but rather trying to understand other people’s work.

In the second half of Genesis 4, Cain founds civilization. He has sex with his wife, she gives him a son who they name Enoch. Cain then goes and builds a city and names it after his kid. Explanations abound for which city was called Enoch. Honestly, there doesn’t have to be a city named Enoch for this to be true or entirely made up. There could have been a city named Enoch, maybe it even existed when this part of Genesis was being penned, maybe it was a half remembered place from some oral history the author wrote down. This is just a possible explanation as to how it was founded. Was it really founded by the second man on earth? No, certainly not. Was there a hypothetical City of Enoch, founded by a guy named Cain who named it after his firstborn son? There’s no reason to think so, but there’s also no reason to think there wasn’t, or at least something similar that gave rise to the story.

What I found interesting, pouring over the genealogies is that the descendants of Cain have awfully similar names to the descendants of Seth. Two people having the same name is fine, what’s weird is that they’re in the mostly the same order. I looked up why this might be. My thought was someone’s way of reconciling two groups stories about Cain without angering either side. Here’s a side by side comparison.

Seth’s LineCain’s Line
EnoshEnoch
Kenan (Cainan in some texts)Irad
Mahal’alelMehujael
JaredMethushael
EnochLamech
Methu’selah
Lamech
Noah
Shem, Ham, Japheth

Sure enough a lot of scholars agree that they are just variations of the same name. Also, if you assume “Cainan/Kenan” and “Cain” are the same person, and note that the only other difference is when Mehujael/Mahal’alel and Enoch/Enoch were born the lists are identical, with the addition of an “Enosh” on Cain’s line. The list looks like this:

Seth’s LineCain’s Line (with Enoch and Mehujael swapped)
Enosh(Hypothetical Enosh/Enoch father of Cain(an). Enosh might just be another name for Adam.
Kenan (Cainan)Cain
Mahal’alelMehujael
JaredIrad
EnochEnoch
Methu’selahMethushael
LamechLamech
NoahJabal, Jubal, Tubal-Cain, Na’amah (daughter)
Shem, Ham, Japheth

Adding a hypothetical Enosh before Cain is not that weird, because Enosh just means “Man” the same as Adam. It could just refer to the same person. One group may have thought the progenitor of humanity was Seth, and the other thought it was Enosh/Adam. At any rate, placing all that next to each other as above shows the family lines are identical.

Speaking of Enoch, he and Lamech are the only two people in either genealogy where something they did or involved in was mentioned.

PersonAccomplishment:
Seth’s Line
Accomplishment: Cain’s Line
EnochWas so righteous God took him and he did not die.The world’s first city was named after him.
LamechProphesied that his son, Noah would relieve the people of the world from their endless labor.A dude punched him, and he killed him to set an example of what happened to anyone who wronged him. Invented the phrase “Assert Dominance”.

Seems like a game of oneupmanship by the Seth group to prove their guys with the same name were not only different people but had different personalities. I see the endless bullshitting by ancient priests like this:

Cain Priest: “Yeah our boy Cain’s son Enoch had the oldest city in the world named after him. Beat that.”

Seth Priest: “Oh yeah? Our guy Seth’s great, great, great, great, great grandson Enoch, who is a different guy from your Enoch as is our Enosh, was so pure and righteous that God didn’t let him die. He took him, and he’s still alive in heaven, hell, some say he’s the literal voice of God.”

Cain Priest: “Sure but our man Lamech’s kids invented musical instruments, metallurgy, and figured out how to raise cattle and make better tents. His daughter is the ancestor of people in Egypt.”

Seth Priest: “Your Lamech murdered a guy for punching him. Not a cool guy. Our dude Lamech prophesied his kid Noah would save the world from all work and toil. Noah was the guy who built an ark and preserved all of humanity while God wiped out the wicked people.”

Cain Priest: “Are we not still endlessly working to eat? Aren’t there still wicked people? Like the Moabites?”

Seth Priest: “Sure but…”

Cain Priest: “No, seems to me your Lamech was full of shit. Our cat Tubal-Cain figured out how to make bronze and discovered the secrets of iron working. One of his brothers figured out cows, and the other figured out music. All of those things made our lives a lot easier, more pleasant, and with few drawbacks. What did your idiot Noah do? Built a boat, probably using T-Cain’s nails. Also he invented wine. A product that not only makes you stupid, but literally happens on its own if you just mash some grape up and leave them in a jar in the closet. Good job Noah, you invented something nature does by itself.”

And the argument continued until there weren’t any more Cainite priests to voice their opinion.

One other thing that sticks out to me about these genealogies is that, and I’ve mentioned this before, it specifically states that Adam had sex with his wife to produce a child. It also says Cain had sex with his wife and produced a child. It does not say that about anyone else. In Genesis 5 where Adam’s descendants through Seth are listed, it says nothing of the sort. Genesis 4 and 5 also use different words for “was born to”. Genesis 4 also uses “Yahweh” for God, while 5 reverts back to “Elohim”. My guess is, whoever wrote Genesis 4 did not also write Genesis 5 based on their writing style and what name they ascribe to God.

Lastly, Genesis 4 speaks of the female descendants of Cain, but we do not see any other women mentioned by named until Sarai is introduced in Chapter 10. No woman is named in the story of the Flood (one would think the four women who gave birth to humanity would be important enough to name). No women are named in the story of the Tower of Babel, and it’s not until the end of chapter 10 that we’re introduced to Sarai and her sister in law Milcah.

It’s worth noting that, at least from a cursory look at Genesis 1-5, the sections that mention specific women also use the word “Yahweh”. I do not know if there is a connection between the two or not, other than just different tastes from different authors.

24 May 2020

Uncle Aaron’s Bible Stories – A Cynical Take on Cain and Abel

Once the man and Eve were exiled from the garden they started humping like sex-starved rabbits in spring. After one of their many daily encounters with the beast with two backs, Eve became pregnant with her first child.
“Oh my God! Like, with God’s help, I have made a little man!” she said, holding the newborn baby to her breast.
The man looked at the boy skeptically, “With God’s help eh? I’ve been thinking, he doesn’t look very much like me.”
“Like, I don’t know if you’re trying to say he isn’t yours or not, but you do know you’re the only man right?”
The man shrugged, “Well at any rate I’m sure he’ll make us proud,” he said, taking the boy and rocking him to sleep. After Cain was asleep the two had sex again, and Eve fell pregnant with her second child. When that child was born, she just named him Abel and moved on with her life.
In the course of time the two boys took very different paths in life. Like his father, Cain became a farmer. Abel decide to work primarily with livestock and became a shepherd.
For no reason whatsoever, the two boys decided to make an offering to God. So one day they each brought their offering. Cain brought some of his produce, the fruits of his orchard, grain from his field, and some vegetables. Abel, ever the show off, brought the fattest of the first born female lambs of his flock.
God, as is known, loves barbecue and favored Abel’s offering. He didn’t even look at Cain’s healthier, vegan friendly offering. Not even the apples, which were amazing. This made Cain irrationally angry with his brother.
Noticing Cain’s anger and frustration God visited him.
“Cain, why are you angry? You look like one of Abel’s sheep peed in your coffee.”
“What’s coffee?” Cain asked.
“Nevermind. Look there’s no reason for you to be mad. If with everything you do, you do a good job, you’ll be accepted. If you don’t do a good job, sin will be skulking around you, wanting you, desiring you. You can’t let it have its way, you must assert dominance and subjugate it to your will.”
“I think I understand, God,” Cain said. He didn’t particularly understand, God was known for being somewhat cryptic and had a tendency to retaliate harshly on anyone who didn’t understand what He was getting at.
“Good, good talk,” God said, slapping Cain on the back and wandering off to parts unknown.
Cain, who couldn’t quite get over his anger found his brother sitting on his ass watching his sheep and playing some nonsense musical instrument he’d invented.
“Hey Abel!” Cain yelled, “Come with me out to one of my fields, I need some help with something right quick.”
Abel got up and followed his brother. “What do you need help with?”
“I’ve lost one of my tools in a hole, and can’t quite reach it. Your arms are a bit longer than mine, thought I’d get you to try before I go to the effort of digging it out,” Cain replied.
“Makes sense,” Abel replied.
They reached the field and Cain pointed to a small crevice in the ground, “It’s down there, you should be able to see it.”
Abel crouched down and looked in the hole, “Cain I don’t see it? What am I looking for?”
“It’s a wooden stick with a rock tied to it. Seriously, you need to eat more carrots, I can see it from here,” Cain replied.
Abel laid down and peered into the hole, “I still don’t see it.”
“Silly me, I found it,” Cain said, bringing a stone club down on his brother’s head as hard as he could. Abel’s head split open like a ripe watermelon in August. Cain’s profession made him inhumanly strong, pulling his wooden plow through the hard, cursed ground.
Later that afternoon while Cain was pleasantly harvesting garlic, the Lord approached him.
“Yes, God?” Cain asked, not looking up from his work.
“Where’s your brother Abel? I can’t find him.”
“How the hell should I know where my brother is? Am I supposed to keep track of his schedule or something? He does his own thing. With sheep. It’s weird and unhealthy,” Cain replied.
“It was a rhetorical question Cain. I know you killed him, his blood has been screaming at me from the ground all day. So, as punishment, I’m cursing you so that the ground won’t produce for you anymore, because of all the blood you made it drink. You’re going to be a wanderer, and probably a weak one as the ground isn’t going to give you its strength anymore,” God said.
“Ok, see that’s a good curse. You’re getting better at this. Dad said you cursed the ground because of what he did, now you’re cursing me because of what I did. Much more fair,” Cain said.
God puffed out his chest, “Well, thank you, Cain.”
“But!” Cain replied, holding up a finger, “This is too much punishment for what I did. First of all, Abel kind of had it coming. Second, you’re going to make me unable to do the only thing I’m good at and wander all over the place begging for food. I won’t make it to the next farm over before they kill me. The Cherub over there does a good job of keeping us safe from bandits. He’s even taken to turning into a man, and I shouldn’t tell you this but he lets dad borrow his sword sometimes.”
“Oh, that’s easy to remedy,” God said, putting his finger on Cain’s head, “I’m marking you so people will know if they kill you, they’ll get it seven times worse.”
“What did you do?”
“I made it look like you’re a somewhat inhuman monster. People will be afraid to touch you,” God replied.
“I’m hideous aren’t I?”
“Oh, no far from it. In fact, while people won’t want to kill you, I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding a wife or two now,” God said, winking at Cain, “Now get the fuck out of here.”
And so it was that Cain left Eden and ran off to the Land of Nod. Which is to say he wandered around aimlessly for a time.

This is why the world hates vegans.

Notes… And musings about vampires…

As always, my sources are the Revised Standard Edition of the Bible, Young’s Literal Translation, and the Orthodox Jewish Bible. I also refer to an extra biblical source for part of this story called the “Apocalypse of Moses”. Some of the other ideas come from more than one non-biblical source.

Most translators and probably the original authors sort of talk around Adam and Eve having sex. They say things like, “Adam knew his wife,” much like how we say, “Oh they slept together.” Some translations make it more blatant. With Adam and Cain, it specifically says they ‘knew their wives’ before they had children. With the other patriarchs, it does not say this, they just had children, which is a more natural way of saying it.
There’s nothing wrong with either talking about or around sex, I just find it odd it’s even brought up. Of course they had sex, that’s how children are made. Was there some pamphlet going around suggesting Adam’s children and Cain’s children came about some other way?

In Adam’s case, actually yes. It was a widespread belief that Cain’s father was a fallen angel, Satan, the snake, or even God Himself. The latter probably being the logical answer to the question, “What did she mean with God’s help I’ve gotten a man?” My guess is that the passage didn’t include the part about Adam and Eve boning. I’d imagine someone added it later try and dispel the idea that Cain was somehow half-human and that was the reason he murdered Abel. Why be specific with Cain and his wife, I have no idea.

The differing professions of the brothers are equally valid ways to produce food. Producing food used to be far more important to people, and far more labor intensive than it is today. Also, most people were involved in it. Now, a relatively small number of people can feed hundreds, possibly thousands, due to industrialization and thousands of years of selective breeding.
There’s almost certainly a statement being made here about the people who farm, and the people who raise livestock. I’m not sure what the issue was when the story was being penned. The best suggestion I’ve read is that the semi-nomadic, sheep herding way of life was seen as superior to the settled, agricultural life of civilized people. Considering Cain builds the world’s first city later, it’s as good a theory as any.

The nature of the two offerings is, at best confusing. Cain is said to have brought some of his produce as an offering. Abel is said to have brought a meat offering, and it’s said in the most confusing way possible.
The way most translations I looked at phrase Genesis 4:4, it indicates Abel brought both some whole, firstborn sheep, as well as some choice cuts of meat he’d butchered. Maybe this is correct, as such offerings did occur. Young’s Literal Translation indicates he brought some of the fattest firstborn female sheep he had as an offering. That’s what I went with, mostly because it fits better with the common idea of what an ancient animal sacrifice was, namely a whole animal being burned. No other translation I looked at indicates the sheep were female.
The issue is that this wasn’t a sacrifice, it was a gift offering, which didn’t usually mean the whole animal was burned. While gift offerings were sometimes made as an addition to the regular sin offerings, they were not mandatory and were rarely a whole animal.
Say you had a good harvest, or were trying to curry God’s favor for your next horse race, you might burn some grain, oil and incense. If you had been a particularly sinful rancher this year, you might also toss in a filet mignon or two with your regular offering of a whole cow, just to make sure it took. Often times only part of your offering was actually burned, the priests would eat most of it. I think of it much like a donation to the church apart from your tithe for a special project or something like that.

Why God turned down Cain’s offering is anyone’s guess. Many interpretations exist. One common interpretation is that God required an animal sacrifice, and that vegetables were unacceptable. Absent any sort of theological frameworks, it certainly reads that way. However, God later institutes grain sacrifices, fruit sacrifices and various other non-animal based sacrifices, which indicates at some point in time these kinds of offerings and sacrifices were seen as normal. The author of this story may have simply been from a time when animal sacrifices and offerings were the only kind that were acceptable.
There are tons of other ideas, few of which have any basis in what the scripture actually says. Cain’s attitude, effort, and the grain not being the first fruit of the field are all interpretations I’ve heard, and read. These are all products of various theological frameworks being applied retroactively to the text. The scripture says nothing of the sort.
I have a more cynical, and more practical idea as to why the story reads the way it does. These stories were almost all written down by the literate priests. It’s also my understanding that priests would get parts of the offerings and sacrifices to eat themselves. I believe this was how they were paid. Since meat is more desirable than bread to most, this was just one (or more) priest’s way of getting the all barbecue he wanted as opposed to the less tasty dough offerings.

A lot of artwork depicts Cain killing Abel with the jawbone of a donkey. I was always taught he grabbed a rock and smashed Abel over the head. I think this idea comes from the Qoran (actually, a lot of the stories I heard in Sunday School were really from the Qoran or some other Islamic source), and the jawbone thing was probably some weird idea from England in the middle ages. Either way it’s not specified how Cain killed Abel. The idea I like the best is he just clubbed him on the back of the head with some primitive farm implement while he was distracted.

The mark God gives Cain after the murder is also the subject of centuries of debate. One of the letters of God’s sacred name is one idea I’ve seen. Another is that God caused him to grow a horn. A reasonable idea is that God gave him leprosy. Since Cain was a city builder, I suspect it wasn’t supposed to be leprosy if the author knew of the city building. One of the more interesting, and fantastic ideas is that God turned him into a vampire. There are a few apocryphal texts describing Cain biting his brother on the neck, and of Eve having a vision of Cain drinking Abel’s blood. This seems to be where that particular idea comes from.
At any rate it seems to be that the mark was something people could see and understand. I like the idea of some kind of deformity. Whatever it was obviously didn’t hinder his ability to obtain a wife and have children so it couldn’t have been too horrifying.

Dwelling in the Land of Nod is apparently an ancient idiom for living a wandering, nomadic lifestyle. It’s not a literal place, it just means that he wandered around east of Eden for a while.

As for the moral of the story at the end. I just find this funny. A lot of these Bible stories have a quick little, “And this is why a thing is like that” at the end. This one didn’t have one, but Creation and The Fall both do. Creations is “And this is why a man leaves his parent’s house and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh”, the one for the Fall is actually the curse, explaining the following:

  1. Why Snakes have no legs.
  2. Why women have pain in child birth.
  3. Why people hate snakes.
  4. Why men have to work hard their whole life for seemingly less than they put in.
  5. Why the ground grows weeds and other hindrances to agriculture.
17 May 2020

Uncle Aaron’s Bible Stories – A Cynical Take on Adam and Eve

The Fall

In the garden of Eden there lived a snake. Of every land animal, the snake was by far the most cunning. Among all the animals that lived, the snake was the third craftiest. Only the octopus of the sea, and raven of the air were more wise than she. One day the snake meets the woman and strikes up a conversation.
After the small talk and pleasantries are done with, the snake gets right to the point and asks the woman, “Has Yahweh told you that you can’t eat from any of the trees in this garden?”
The woman was not surprised this snake could talk, and was pleased that the snake was such a great conversational partner, unlike her husband who talked over her head a lot. “No, like Yahweh said we can totally eat any of the fruit from like any tree in like the whole garden. He wasn’t like super specific about strawberries, but like any tree’s fruit we can totally eat. But there’s like this tree in like the middle of the garden that he said like, ‘Don’t eat the fruit of this tree or even touch it or you’ll like, you know, totally die right then’. I don’t know what like, ‘die’ means but it sounds totally final, you know?”
To this the snake replied, “You’re making up the part about not touching it aren’t you?”
“Yeah, like the Lord said just to not eat it, but I added the don’t touch part so I’d be super sure not to do anything wrong,” the woman replied.
The serpent nodded, “I see, but you won’t actually die if you eat the fruit from that tree.”
“For real?” the woman asked.
“For real. See, Yahweh knows that when you eat that fruit, you’ll be just like Him. Your eyes will be opened and you’ll know good from evil, just like He does.”
“I don’t know,” the woman said while winding a lock of her hair around her finger. “Like, God was like pretty specific to my husband not to eat it. I haven’t even gone near that tree in pretty much ever. But like, sure it makes sense God would say that so we wouldn’t be like Him. I’m totally going to go check it out.”
“Totally,” said the snake.
The woman went to look at the tree some time later. She saw that it was a pretty tree with pretty, shiny red fruit. The fruit looked pretty good to her, and if any fruit would make her wise, it was this fruit. And why not? Her husband, who she just called ‘man’, said God called it the ‘Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil’. So eating it must let her know what the difference is. So she picked a fruit and broke it open.
“There’s like a million tiny seeds in here,” she said looking in the fruit. After picking a few out and eating she came to a realization, “Oh. My. God. This is the most annoying thing I’ve ever eaten. It looks good, but like, so annoying.” She popped a few more seeds in her mouth, “Oh, I totally get it now! The difference between good and evil! Some things look great, but are not worth trying. Like this pomegranate. Other things look awful, but are so worth trying in the end. Like my husband’s penis.”
So she found her husband, and held the fruit out to him, “Man! Eat some of these pomegranate seeds.”
“What the hell is a pomegranate, woman?” the man asked.
“This is a pomegranate, you know from the tree of knowledge of good and evil over there, I’m calling it a pomegranate,” she said, pointing to the tree, “Wait, what’s hell?”
“Never mind about hell. This seems legit,” he said, throwing a hand full of the seeds in his mouth, “Oh God! This is the most annoying thing I’ve ever eaten. It looks great, but Jesus, it’s so crunchy and awful.”
“I know right!” she said, “Wait, who’s Jesus?”
“Nevermind. So, for reasons I don’t want to explain, I didn’t want to tell you this earlier, but I can see your lady bits. It’s distracting now.”
“Oh, I know. Ever since I ate this fruit, I’ve been thinking a lot about your dick. Could you like, cover it up? It’s weird looking.”
So the man stitched together some fig leaves into what he called, “Dick Coverings.”
The woman, who obviously didn’t have a penis, suggested he call them “Loin Clothing” instead.
“Oh that’s much better,” the man said after putting his on, “But, I kind of want to convince you to take yours off again.”
“I know right! It’s weird, but I kind of want to see your dick again.”
The man held his hand up and stopped her short, “I hear Yahweh. Quick, hide in this bush, He won’t see us here!”
Sure enough, Yahweh was noisily walking around the garden, as He was known to do in the evening. The man and the woman were nowhere in sight, which confused Yahweh.
“Man! Man! Where are you?” God started calling while He tore through the garden.
After a few minutes God walked by the bushes the man and woman were hiding in.
“Yahweh, we’re hiding over here,” the man called from the bushes.
Yahweh whipped his head around as soon as he heard the man, “I knew that! Why are you hiding, man?”
The man crawled out of the bush and stood up. “Why are you suddenly covering your junk?” God asked. The woman crawled out from under the bush and stood next to her husband.
“Well Yahweh, we were embarrassed that we were naked so we made some loin clothing and hid in the bushes,” the man replied.
“Who told you that you were naked?” Yahweh asked, tilting His head like an inquisitive dog, “Wait a minute. Did you eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? Like I specifically told you not to?”
“Well, I did. But this woman you made here told me to,” the man replied, pointing to the woman.
The woman folded her arms across her chest and narrowed her eyes at the man, who flinched at the look she gave him, “Like I gave it to him, but that snake made me forget I wasn’t supposed to at it. She tricked me!”
“SNAAAAAAKE!” Yahweh yelled when He realized the serpent wasn’t around.
The snake flew in and coiled up around a tree branch, “Yes, Yahweh? What do you want?”
“Since you tricked the woman into eating the fruit I’m cursing you to crawl on the ground on your belly and eat dirt.”
“You’re confusing me with a worm. They already do that,” the serpent replied.
“Look I’m removing your legs, and making you eat dirt.”
“Nah, I don’t think so. If I had legs, I’d be called a lizard. I don’t have any sudden desire to eat dirt. Nice try, El.”
“Stop calling me that. Now, I’m going to make the descendants of the woman hate you, and your descendants hate them. They’re going to crush your head, and you’ll do nothing more than bruise their heel,” God said, smugly.
“Whatever. Look guys, He’s making a big show, but all of my kin are more afraid of you then you are of them. Some will even kill you if they bite you. So, be careful, your heel may be a lot more than bruised,” the snake said, slithering off.
Yahweh rolled his eyes and turned to the woman, “I’m cursing you with a lot of pain in childbirth. Also the man will subject you to him but you’ll be horny for him constantly.”
The woman shrugged, “What’s a child? Also, like, I don’t know what horny is but I kind of want to try some stuff with my man, and I was feeling that way before you showed up. Could you wrap this up? I have stuff I want to do to him,” she said, winking at the man.
Yahweh rolled his eyes, “As for you man, because you listened to your woman, I’m cursing the ground.”
“Are you sure? I was the one who screwed up. The ground did nothing,” the man asked, “Also you made her horny for me, shouldn’t you curse me to be revolted by her or something? You have a terrible sense of tragedy, Yahweh. Also, why shouldn’t I listen to my woman? You made her from my rib, with the express purpose of helping me out. She’s pretty and smart. I don’t see why you’re punishing the ground for me listening to her bad advice. ”
“I am cursing the ground! It won’t grow anything for you easily, you’ll have to work hard every day of your life. The bread you eat will only come in proportion to how much you sweat! You’ll have to pull weeds and till the ground until you die!”
“Question, what is bread? Also you’re saying I’ll be doing the exact same thing you made me to do, except harder. So now I just play life on hard mode? Also woman, who is insanely hot, will be constantly horny for me. Are you sure this is how you want to do the whole curse thing? You can try again, we’ll wait if you want to change your mind” The man asked.
“Yes!” Yahweh said.
“Challenge accepted!” The man said, “Woman! I’m going to call you Eve now, because soon you’re going to be the mother of everyone. Except me. I guess Yahweh is my mom.”
The pair walked off and Yahweh turned to his fellow gods that he suddenly remembered exist and said, “I think we have a problem guys. They’re just like us now because of that stupid tree. If the man is smart, and he is, he’ll make a bee line for the Tree of Life and be immortal.”
“So, effectively more gods?” One of the gods asked.
“Yeah, we need to kick him out of the garden,” Yahweh replied.
“That line about how you’re his mom was kind of sweet though,” a goddess piped in.
“I know, I kind of feel sorry for them. I wish I could do something,” Yahweh said, eyeing two animals that were passing by. He promptly killed those animals and made clothing out of their skins and presented them to the man and woman. Then He kicked them out of the garden. He placed a winged monstrosity with the body of a bull and the head of a man at the entrance of the garden with a flaming sword so they couldn’t get back in.

And that’s how unicorns went extinct.

Notes, So Many Notes

There’s a lot to unpack here with my telling of The Fall. As with all of these retellings I’m using the RSV, Young’s Literal Translation, and the Orthodox Jewish Bible as primary sources. I list a few extra-biblical sources for some of the information as necessary. These are typically books that didn’t make it into the canon, and scholarly research and commentary.

The word for serpent in Genesis 3:1 is “Nachash” which is the probable root for “Nahushtan” mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. Nachash is the Hebrew word that refers to all kinds of snakes on a generic level. The difference seems to be the same as ‘snake’ and ‘viper’ in English. Viper typically means a poisonous snake, whereas snake can be any number of legless reptiles. Most places I looked claimed Hebrew has fourteen other words for snake, or specific snakes.
Of all the interpretations for who exactly the serpent is, and there are a number of them, I lean towards the following three:

  • A Watcher. One of the angels that fell from heaven and had sex with human women. Watchers are mentioned by that term in the Book of Daniel, and in the extra biblical Book of Enoch. The ‘bene elohim’ that produced children with human women are really the same idea according to most sources I found.
  • A goddess of some kind. I’ve lost my sources on this. However even a basic examination of artwork related to the fall from antiquity will show Eve talking to a woman whose lower half is that of a snake. At least some people believed this. One source I saw indicated that the tree and the snake were the same thing, a goddess and her name meant “Tree of Good”, implying the “and Evil”. Unfortunately I didn’t save a link the book where this came from, but it fits in with all the artwork.
  • A literal talking snake. This is to my mind the likeliest possibility. Just about everyone has a story that includes talking animals from ancient times.

At no point is the snake said to be the devil. The idea of the devil didn’t seem to exist in Judaism until sometime around 200 BC. As best I can tell, Genesis 2 (if not the entire book in some form) had been around at least eight hundred years before this. The story itself is likely much older.

You’ll note I use “Yahweh” for God in this story as opposed to “God” or “gods” as in chapter 1. In English translations God is called “God” in Genesis 1. In Genesis 2 He is called “Lord God”. The reason being that in Genesis 1 the Hebrew word “Elohim” is used by itself, the word itself usually denotes more than one god. In Genesis 2 the phrase is “Yahweh Elohim”. The Yahweh part being a rough pronunciation of the sacred name of God that’s being used in the text. The English translators kept the tradition of not saying the name of God by substituting “Lord” for “Yahweh”. This is much the same as what the priests would do when reading the text out loud. They would say “Adonai” or sometimes “The Name” when they came across God’s name in the text. In some modern English translations you’ll find either “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” in the text instead of “Lord”.

As I pointed out earlier, Adam is never named in all of Genesis. He’s just “the man” or “HaAdam” in the Hebrew. So he’s just “Man” for the purposes of these stories. I was always told Adam was probably the smartest man to ever live, hence his knowledge of some things that don’t exist yet in this story.

I like to imagine Eve, who does get a name, as a smart valley girl from the 90’s. Kind of like a brunette version of the main character in “Legally Blonde”. My upbringing in a Southern Baptist church taught me that Eve was stupid for whatever reason. I don’t see it that way, she was ‘tricked’ by the snake and made the decision on her own.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is another subject of a millenia long debate. What it actually granted Adam and Eve is equally uncertain. The most commonly taught idea is they then knew the difference between Good and Evil as the name of the tree suggests. This makes very little sense in context of the story, hence the debate. Generally, the Old Testament indicates that ‘good’ is “What God says is OK” and ‘evil’ is “What God says is not OK”. I admit that’s stripping away a lot of nuance, but that’s typically what it comes down to.
One of the longest standing ideas is that the Tree taught Adam and Eve how to reproduce. You can see this idea in an absurd amount of medieval artwork and pornography. This also explains a lot of Christian belief about how sex is evil. The idea being that the first sin was not eating the fruit, but Adam and Eve having sex after they had done so. It also makes sense of much of the story. The pair already knew disobeying God was evil. It also explains why God said they were like gods (the gods could reproduce), and only needed to eat of the Tree of Life to essentially be gods. There are holes in the theory, but as absurd as it seems, it does make a lot of sense without applying a lot of modern ideas to it.

The Tree of Life isn’t talked about much. I haven’t found any reason to think that it was anything other than a tree that produced food that made you immortal. The idea was that you wouldn’t die as long as you kept eating this fruit. God Himself says as much to His divine counsel (other gods) at the end of the chapter.
The idea is identical to Ambrosia in Greek myth. Many myths from all over the world talk about heroes missing out on eating from the ‘divine food’ that would grant them immortality. The Chinese talked about “Peaches of Immortality”, The Epic of Gilgamesh talks about an herb of immortality that only a sacred snake could find, and the Egyptians wrote about something called “White Drops”. Some ancient Hebrews believed in a Tree of Life with immortality granting fruit. It’s all the same thing.

The curses strike me as odd. The serpent is punished directly. I had never thought about the snake being cursed to eat dirt until I wrote this. I can’t imagine that the writer meant snakes literally ate dirt, unless he’d never encountered a snake, and no one he knew had either. One wonders if there’s another story where the snake is a worm or some other creature, or if the author was meaning that snakes ate dirt metaphorically, because they slither on the ground. Many think that this curse is why snakes lost their legs. I think perhaps they’d have been called ‘lizards’ if they had legs and snakes after they lost them. The idea that snakes had wings, not legs, and could fly makes a lot more sense here.
Eve is also punished directly with pain in childbirth. There’s no indication that they had children at that point. So how would she know the difference? What ties this together is that she’ll desire her husband and he’ll lord over her. So she’ll want the very thing that causes her so much pain.
The man’s curse is indirect. The ground is cursed, not the man. He’ll have to work very hard for his bread until the day he dies. What I find hilarious here is the idea of ‘bread’ in the Garden of Eden. There was no bread, there was no death. The only thing we’re told the pair ate was fruit. How was Adam supposed to know what bread was. This is like an author using the idiom “fly under the radar” in a period piece set in the 1800’s. It’s nonsensical.

The Cherubim at the gates of Eden are not the chubby winged angel babies we call “Cherubs” today. They are fearsome beings with four faces, six wings, and legs like a bull. There are carvings all over the middle east of winged bulls with a man’s head, generally called “Lamassu”. The four faces might indicate they imagined the Cherubim to have four faces. It could, in my opinion, mean that they thought there were four ways a cherubim could appear. The four faces are generally a man, an eagle, an ox (bull) and a lion. The various winged animals depicted in the middle east were generally combinations of those four animals. Griffins are lion/eagles, Lammasu are bull/men, kirabu are winged humans, sphinx are man/lions, and so forth. All of those hybrid animals are depicted as having wings at some point. Even the sphinx, depending on who is depicting it, often have wings. Just speculation on my part, but perhaps some people thought all those hybrids were essentially the same thing?

I personally think that this story was adapted from an older story and we don’t have the full picture. It could be ripped off from the Babylonian or Sumerian creation stories. It could have just as easily been one that the Hebrew people had been telling each other for generations. Either way

11 May 2020

Uncle Aaron’s Bible Stories – A Cynical Take on Biblical Creation

Creation: The First Try

At some point before time began, the gods decided to start making the heavens and the earth. The earth itself had no shape, and contained nothing except an endless, lifeless ocean. For some reason God’s spirit fluttered over the abyss as a wind.
After a time God said, “Let there be light”. Suddenly all the water and nothing was visible. He then separated light from the dark. The light, he called Day, and the darkness he called Night. This was when time began, and was the first day.
The next day God placed an expanse between the waters of the earth, and the waters of the sky. He called this expanse “heaven”.
On the third day God gathered all the water of the earth into one place, and dry land appeared where the waters receded. He called the waters “Seas” and the dry land “Earth”. He then commanded the earth to grow plants. It apparently did.
The fourth day consisted of God realizing he’d screwed up by not creating a source for the light, so he created the stars. This was not enough light, so he created the sun to light up the day, and the moon to light up the night.
On the fifth day God spoke birds, and fish into existence. More importantly he spoke sea monsters into existence, because the world was just boring without giant sea serpents to make sailing from place to place even more hazardous.
Lastly, on the sixth day God creates mammals and insects.
He then turned to his fellow gods and said, “Let’s make some beings that look like us and let them have dominion over the whole earth.” So they created humanity.
On the seventh day God was exhausted and rested.

Creation 2: The Makening

God gave himself a name, started over and briefly quit acknowledging that the other gods existed. Or possibly forgot he already did all this and tried again.

One day Yahweh created the whole of the heavens and earth, but there wasn’t anything growing on it because Yahweh had forgot to create rain. He also forgot that He’d already created dry land, and that the water already existed from his previous attempt. Luckily the Earth knew better what it was doing than God, and a mist came up from the earth and watered everything, which was just dry land.
Yahweh then scooped up some dust from the earth and breathed into it, creating a living being, a man. Then Yahweh planted a garden in Eden, a land to the east. Yahweh placed the man in the garden and caused all the vegetation He’d planted to grow. He also decides to place the Tree of Life, and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil right in the middle of the garden. This will be important later.
Four rivers that are never really mentioned again, and do little to help locate where Eden was, flow out of the garden and we’re going to spend an inordinate amount of time reading about them. The first is the Pishon, which probably doesn’t exist now. The next is the Gihon, which also likely doesn’t exist. Some people theorize these two rivers are either the Nile in Egypt and Ethiopia, or that the Pishon is the Ganges river in India. I say why not the Volga in Russia and the Amazon in Brazil? The other two are the Tigris and Euphrates, which do still exist. Either way, four whole verses are dedicated to these rivers. The speculation on them is endless. Probably two of them dried up after the second chapter of Genesis was written. Either way, if all four of these rivers still exist, they certainly don’t come from the same source.
Then Yahweh placed the man in the garden. He forgot he’d already done this previously, because of all the time He took with the rivers. Yahweh had a short attention span in those days. He then tells the man to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because it would kill him. He was allowed to eat literally anything else. This included the fruit from the Tree of Life, which is probably why the man is seemingly immortal.
Yahweh, forgetting all the people He made before, realizes he only made the one man, and that man will get lonely, so he talks to himself and says He’ll make a helper for him. This is when he decides to pull all the animals from the ground and put them in front of the man. The man would then name them. We can safely assume that this took two to three years to complete if there were half the number of animal species back then as there are now. And this is only if he came up with one name per minute with no breaks for sleep.
After the years pass, Yahweh remembers why he was making the animals in the first place. In the first recorded case of surgery on the first man, God puts the man to sleep and takes a rib from his side and closes the incision. The first woman was made from this rib. The man wakes up and sees a hot naked woman in front of him. This confuses him greatly. Instead of actually giving her a name, he just poetically calls her what she is, “woman”.
The poem he spoke goes like this:
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She will be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Later he’d see how things are actually born and realize he sounded a bit stupid. Also the Man must have invented writing right then because we somehow know what he said. It’s more likely the the Woman told this story to their children so many times that writing was invented by one of them with the express purpose of mocking their father for all time.


This is why husbands call their wives “woman” to get their attention.

For no reason it’s pointed out they were naked and not ashamed, or aware. Probably because the man didn’t want to ruin a good thing and tell his wife she should probably put some clothes on.

Notes

My cynical take on the creation account uses the Revised Standard Version and Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible as sources. Occasionally I reference the Orthodox Jewish Bible for words in Hebrew. I’m not a scholar and all this comes from research, years of insight, and attempting to read what the Bible literally says.

There are two distinct creation accounts in Genesis. The first one is the more familiar seven day account and the second is a simpler account. They are hard to reconcile if one looks closer. The biggest problem I see is the order in which humanity in particular is created.

In the first account all of humanity is created at once and are the last part of creation. Nothing new is created after mankind. The second account tells us God created a single man right after the plants, then created animals, and finally the woman. Another issue is that in the first account there is nothing but God(s) and water. The second account basically contradicts this by implying there is no water, only a barren wasteland.

The second creation account is also the most monotheistic. In other parts of Genesis God talks to other entities. In Genesis 2, He’s clearly talking to Himself. One could change the words “God said” to “God thought” in Genesis 2:18 and it wouldn’t change the meaning. However, in the following chapters God is objectively talking to other powerful supernatural entities.

My opinion is that the best parts of the two accounts should have been merged into a third ‘unified’ account and all the weird nonsensical stuff be done away with. I believe that originally both accounts probably made a lot more linear sense, but as time went along stuff got added (interpolated) or changed slightly (redacted) by the people copying it. For instance, in the second account God clearly places the man in the garden twice. Once before the rivers are mentioned and once after. This seems like a basic copyist error.

I’d bet the four verses about the river were interpolated in from a marginal note in some ancient version of the text. I’m not the first person to think this either. No less than Granville Penn, one of William Penn’s great grandsons, had the same opinion in the eighteenth or nineteenth century.

My simplified account would go something like this:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was dry and barren. God caused a mist to rise up from the ground to water the whole of the earth and spring forth plants. He then created all the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, the beasts of the land and creeping things of the earth. When He surveyed his work, He saw that it was good. God then made mankind in his own image and commanded them to populate the whole of the Earth.”

-Aaron

While this still isn’t at all scientific, it does eliminate many of the problems that arise when you take it all literally. God simply created everything, made mankind last, and told them what to do.

This may seem blasphemous to some, but many churches already do something like this in Sunday School. Often the two stories are merged in the teacher’s retelling, keeping the seven days of the first account, but having God create Adam by himself as in the second.

This particular merging causes some issues later in Genesis, namely it begs the question, “Who did Cain and Seth marry? Their sisters?”.

One also notes that “the man” is not named yet. In fact he isn’t named in the entire creation account, all the way to the man and woman leaving the Garden and beyond. This is because Adam means ‘the man’ or something like that in Hebrew. Genesis 5:2 in apparently uses the word “adam” as the name of all humanity. At some point along the way “Adam” became the name of the first man and that’s how the copyists wrote it. The four times the name “Adam” is used before Chapter 5 (Genesis 3:17,3:21,4:1, 4:25), it almost seems like a deliberate translation mistake as it uses ‘the man’ in following verses.

21 February 2018

Dark Cookbook – Cake of Neugbauer

A few days ago I read about a Harry Potter book that a bunch of hilarious writers generated with a predictive keyboard called “Botnik“. It appears that you can load any text into it you wish and it will generate a predictive keyboard based on that text. There’s all kinds of stuff there. The tutorial apparently features “The American Woman’s Cookbook” and selected works of H.P. Lovecraft. I decided it would be hilarious to generate recipes based on vintage cookbooks, old grimoires and short stories from old horror writers.

So I present to you The Cake of Neugebauer generated with the help of botnik, based on “Nyarlathotep” by H.P. Lovecraft, “Aunt Caroline’s Dixieland Recipes”, and a non-vodka singed version of “The Necronomicon”.

Please do not attempt to make any of this at home.

I have no idea what a tablespoonful of waters that have raised demons is but it can’t be good for you. Also ‘boiling syrup’ is probably pretty dangerous. Sumerian deity oats are probably just regular oats. Probably.

Cake Of Neugebauer

One cup brown custard
Two pints beaten eggs
One tablespoonful waters that which have raised demons
Two pounds boiling syrup
One cup powdered cinnamon toast
Oats of a Sumerian deity

Preheat oven to three hundred seventy five degrees.

Put all the ancient ones which have been creamed together until smooth into a baking dish. Chill until very little protection against the elder gods remains.

Mix egg slightly into the melted barrier that keeps vigil into the underworld. Add enough water to dissolve the first brown custard. Mix well.

Put together with the assistance of a sumerian deity and pour boiling syrup over toast.

Cream the mixture into oats.

Bake fifteen years or until tender. Serve with crushed olives and the hidden power which might precipitate.

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23 December 2016

Origin of Christian Holidays – Christmas Pilot Article

Several years ago I got interested in the origin of Halloween and decided to write about it and Easter.  I had planned to do one on Christmas and had compiled all the notes, but at the same time my brother and I started a podcast that ran for two years so all my research efforts went into that. Then I realized I never posted any of that here. So I’m going to do that. But first some thoughts.

To be fair when I started this project I figured I’d find that all Christian holidays were a hundred percent pagan in origin. My working hypothesis was pretty standard. Either early non-Jewish Christians retained their traditions when they converted or the Catholic church just slapped a thin veneer of crosses and Jesus over existing cultural traditions and told people to carry on. When I was a teenager my young evangelical mind had a really hard time with this concept. If it was pagan, you shouldn’t really mix it with Christianity right? Well I’ve grown up and seen that things like the Eucharist and baptism didn’t originate inside the Judeo-Christian world, so we’d have to throw those things out too.

Now that I’ve researched a lot of this stuff, I’m finding that it was a more complex situation. Sometimes something seemed like it originated outside of Christianity but some things came about long after a population converted, or we may have no idea when something started.  There’s a carving of a giant footprint in Sri Lanka that at least four different religions have made up a different story about it to ‘depaganize’ it. The Buddhists, Christians and Muslims all claim it was one of their saints (Though I guess both Muslims and Christians hold Adam in the same regard, I do not know how Islam feels about St. Thomas) and the Hindus believe it to be that of Lord Shiva. It really means that the footprint is something sacred, maybe even holy, and they have all agreed to keep it around, and have constructed a story to legitimize their reasons for doing so. I think it’s the same thing with these holidays.

Christmas is far more complicated than Easter or Halloween. With those there are dates you can look at. There’s definite documentation for when Halloween started. Easter is the defining holiday of the faith so it’s relatively simple to sift through all that.

Since Christianity actually cares nothing about the birth of Jesus, only his death and resurrection, Christmas is harder to pin down in its origin. Halloween was definitely started because of a big church dedication, and Easter is just Passover. The day of Jesus birth was important, but it didn’t have enough importance while he was alive for anyone to ask him about it and write it down. Point is, no one even began to care until long after he was gone.

So in the next few articles I’m going to take apart a few of the claims about Christmas and see if there’s anything to the claim that it’s just a big ol’ pagan holiday meant to deceive you into worshipping the devil!

 

 

 

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23 December 2016

My every day pocket knife – A better way

I was given my first pocket knife at six years old. I lost that pocket knife a few years later even though after getting a better one I kept it in a little cedar box which I still have. It’s a real shame too because I think that knife had been given to my father by his grandfather. I don’t remember. The moral of this story is, not all kids keep up with stuff.

Throughout my life my father, brother, sister and I have given each other various pocket knives to carry around for various reasons. I’ve always preferred the multi-use Swiss Army knives, my dad likes carving knives with more than one blade. My brother likes larger locking blade knives and my sister typically always had smaller pen knives, or more realistically our left overs.

A few solutions that worked for me

The Gerber Dime

The Gerber Dime – It’s maybe three inches long closed, four open and half an inch thick. It weighs a couple of ounces at best and has several useful tools. It’s worth every penny and far better than any other tiny multi-tool I’ve ever messed with.

The knife I’d been carrying for a couple of years has been the Gerber Dime. It’s a small multi-tool that’s helped me fix more than one computer. It has a box opening tool on it so you don’t get tape gunk on the regular blade, which is my favorite feature. The pliers are decent. The little ‘precision’ flat blade screwdriver works pretty well in some Phillips head screws without messing them up. It is not terribly heavy on a key chain. I have the black one and after a few years of carrying it, the paint has stayed on pretty well, and I’ve only touched up the knife edge once. The box opener has needed some help a little more often, but it gets used more.

At the end of the day I liked it but I decided after a few years and as I kept it on my key chain, it made my keys too heavy.

The Leatherman Skeletool

The Leatherman Skeleletool

I got this multi-tool a while back and I used to carry it every day. To be honest I find it a bit heavy for my pocket. I like the changeable bits in the screwdriver function though so I tossed it in my pack, which I’ll talk about in another post. Again, I found it too heavy but it’s worth mentioning here.

The Leatherman Skeletool RX – Has a serrated blade instead of the combination serrated/straight. The CX has a non-serrated blade.

In my opinion this is the best multi-tool you can buy. I’ve owned a classic Leatherman, and I have a Gerber multi-tool I really like as well, and this one just gets everything right. The two biggest problems I’ve had with other multi-tools (besides the fact that they are usually just toys) are they have too much useless, low quality crap in them, and when the handle opens it is hollow, square and can be uncomfortable to use. This one has some ergonomic design and doesn’t have an awl, four crappy flat bladed screwdrivers, a saw, file, can opener and a small pair of scissors. No disrespect to Tim Leatherman or his competitors but, less is more sometimes.

The Victorinox Mechanic

This is my favorite pocket knife ever. I’ve owned three or four of these and used them heavily. My coworkers have used my Mechanics heavily. I’ve had both the Wenger and Victorinox versions and I like them both, the former more than the latter. You can’t find the Wenger ones anymore, but the Victorinox version is just as good. I use the small knife blade, Phillips driver and pliers on these until something breaks. I know you can just write the company and get the parts replaced. When that happens they don’t get thrown away they get put in the kitchen drawer, bathroom cabinet, office, tool bag and I order a new one. The pliers aren’t especially heavy-duty but for the light duty stuff I normally do, they work great. I’ve built at least one computer using just this knife.

It wasn’t really the weight that eventually made me stop carrying this every day but the thickness. But, sometimes, depending on what I’m about to go, my current one will still get thrown in my pocket.

Gerber EAB Pocket Knife

The Gerber EAB – Uses standard contractor or “utility” blades.

There are two versions of this knife and it is what I actually carry now. I like this thing and will probably be getting a few of the ‘lite’ versions of it in the future if they are as good as the regular.

The EAB Lite – Basically the same thing as the EAB. A little more compact version of an already tiny knife.

It is basically a small folding utility knife. It uses standard utility blades so you don’t ever really have to sharpen it. Just take out the old blade and put in a new one. This means the blade is razor-sharp every time, and more importantly you don’t ever mind using your ‘good knife’ on something awful. If you mess up the blade, forget to oil it, chip it, ding it, or anything like that, you just replace it. You can get 100 replacement blades for around $10 (sometimes $5 if you watch them). You can also use hooked blades and other styles that use the same utility blade format.

I have other knives for other uses, but the EAB is what I carry in my pocket every day now and it does what I need it to. The reason I now prefer this little knife  that it basically never needs sharpening. I do not mind sharpening my knives and have multiple ways to do so. It’s just easier to keep a spare blade or two in my toolkit or in my car than to worry about having to cut something with my good pocket knife that I probably shouldn’t then having to wait until I get home to work out the nicks. A five pack of blades at most hardware stores is a few dollars if I don’t have any with me and I need them. For $10 I got a package of a hundred and since they fit multiple other utility knives I own, there’s really no downside.