John Muehleisen Arnold.

Genesis and science; or The first leaves of the Bible online

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of his whole ethical system. Speaking of the
education of the guardians of the state that was to
be formed, he continues, Book II., cap. xvii. : — "And
know you not, that the beginning of every work is
most important, especially to any one young and
tender, because then, that particular impression is
most easily instilled and formed which any one may
wish to imprint on each individual. Entirely so.
Shall we then let children hear any kind of fables
composed by any kind of person, and receive into
their minds opinions, in a great measure, contrary
to those which we think they should have when they
are grown up? We should by no means allow it.
First of all, then, as it seems, we must exercise


control over the fable-makers, and whatever fables
they may invent, we should select from them, and
what is not beautiful we should reject: and very
many of those that they now tell must be cast aside. ' '

The whole is summed up in Book X., chap. i. : —
"That I may tell it to you, — for you will not
denounce me to the composers of tragedy and the
rest of the imitative class, — all such things as these
seem to be the ruin of the intellect of the hearers,
that is, of such of them as have not a test to enable
them to discern their peculiar nature. 7S nat con-
sideration, said he, leads you to say this? It must
be stated, said I, although a certain friendship, at
least, and reverence for Homer, which I have had
from my childhood, almost restrains me from telling
it ; for he seems truly both to have been the first
leader and teacher of all the good composers of
tragedy ; but still the man must not be honoured in
preference to truth." In Book X., cap. vii., Plato
censures the effusion of the poets, because it "nur-
tures and irrigates the passions, whereas they ought
to be governed, in order to our becoming better and
happier, instead of being worse and more miserable."

Let us now notice the contrast. The Pentateuch
has been compared with Homer, and designated the
Theocratical epos of the Israelites with symbolical,
judicial, etymological, and didactical myths. The
marvellous in the one was placed parallel to the
marvellous in the other. Was there mythology in
the one case, why should there not be in the other?
But amidst the accidental analogy between the
Mosaic and the Homeric theophanies, and between
Jewish and Pagan tradition, customs, &c, &c, one
thing is most certain. If there be any reason for
placing the Pentateuch on the same level as the


Illiad, and for considering it a parallel collection of
myths, it would necessarily follow, that the second
literary period of the Hebrews, would judge similarly
of these supposed Mosaic myths as the second
Hellenic period judged of the Homeric productions;
but here the analogy entirely fails.

Instead of condemning the earliest writing of
their forefathers, the Hebrew sages, historians, poets,
and seers of later ages, — who were by no means
inferior in power and spirit to the corresponding
Greek authors of the second period, — hold fast to
the historical matter-of-fact records of the Penta-
teuch. This is done with a tenacity and conviction
which cannot be mistaken. David, and the prophets
judge very differently of Moses from what Plato
does of Homer. And this with all justice. Plato
would not have judged differently of the Pentateuch
from what the Hebrew prophets did, as we can infer
to a certainty from his criticisms of Homer. Have
not many noble-minded Greeks, at a later time,
taken refuge as proselytes in Judaism after they had
despaired of their own creed?

What offended Plato in the popular mythology of
the Greeks was, not the metaphysical side of the
question as regarded the marvels they recorded ; it
was not with him the impossibility of the marvellous,
which now forms the main objection of our modern
Bible critics, but the real stumbling-block of the
Great Thinker arose upon ethical grounds. Plato
betook himself to a critical examination of Homer's
work, not in the name of reason, but, to his praise
be it said, in the name of conscience. He objected,
not to the gods having wrought marvels, but, to their
having wrought wickedness. It was the distinction
between good and evil, which led Plato to a distinc-


tion between true and false. Whilst he rejects the
myths, as such, and rebukes the defects of the
national creed as a deception, from a conscientious
conviction of its falsity, the Prophets and the
Apostles agree, saying: " We have not followed cun-
ningly devised fables or myths."



1. The Sons of God and the Daughters of Men.

The flood account in Genesis was deemed to em-
brace mythological elements because the introduc-
tion to that account is said to represent the sons
of God as haying contracted marriages with
the daughters of men. It was always a disputed
point among theologians whether the sons of God,
Genesis vi., are the angels of God, or whether they
signify the pious descendants of Seth. In favour of
the last opinion the following reasons have been set
forth : Pirst, it is considered most in harmony with
the context to take them as Setbites ; for it is
argued that Genesis iv. gives an account of the
family of Cain, Gen. v. deals with the family of
Seth, and Genesis vi. records the results of the fatal
commingling of these two lines which till then had
been kept wholly distinct. Secondly, the words
"taking to wife," are said to apply always to ordi-
nary, natural matrimonial alliances, but never to
unnatural or criminal connections. Thirdly, the


addition, " all which they chose," is said to imply
that their marrying was according to their lusts,
which could not be applied to angelic beings. Lastly
it is added, and I consider, upon the most doubtful
grounds, that the beauty of the daughters of Cain
was very great.

The other view, according to which the sons of
God are the angels of God, was generally espoused
by the whole ancient synagogue, both in Palestine
and in Babylonia ; also by the Book of Henoch,
about 110 years B.C., and the Book of Jubilees, the
so-called Little Genesis of the first century of our
era. The Pseudo-Jonathan and Bashi evidently
hesitated between this theory and the other, which
recognised the sons of princes in the sons of God.
This last view was also taken by Onkelos, the Sama-
ritan Pentateuch, later Saadia Gaon and Aben Esra.

The only Jewish advocate for the Sethite theory
was Abarbanel, in the fifteenth century. Hence it
may be said that generally and as a body, the Jews
in all ages advocated the angel-theory in preference
to any other explanation of Gen. vi. ; and although
the hellenistic section cling to the same view, the
Septuagint manuscripts seem divided between the
readings of "sons of God" and "angels of God."
Philo, Josephus, and others, firmly adhere to the
oldest, most orthodox, and favourite angel-theory.

As in the Jewish, so also in the Christian Church,
the angel-theory was the most ancient and the most
orthodox. Indeed, some modern divines have even
recognised an allusion in Cor. xi. 1 — 4, to Gen. vi.
1 — 4. Further still, the passages Jude v. 7, and 2
Peter ii. 4, 5, are quoted as direct evidence that the
angel-theory was currently believed in the beginning
of our era. In the two Epistles a parallel is evidently


drawn between the sin of the angels and the sin of
the people of Gomorrha, both being charged with
having gone after strange flesh ; for the words of the
authorised version of Jude verse 7, " in like manner
giving themselves over," can only be translated, "in
a similar manner like those (i.e., the angels, verse 6)
giving themselves over to fornication.'.' In short,
till the latter part of the fourth century, the
Fathers of the Church only knew of the angel-
theory. Amongst the Fathers who treat the sub-
ject are Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Tatian, Iren-
seus, Clemens Alexandra nus, Methodius, and Euse-
bius of Csesarea. Amongst the Latins may be
named Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius, Ambrosius,
Sulpitius Severus, etc. The same view is taken by
the Judceo-Christian Testaments of the twelve
Patriarchs, which date from the second century ; and
by the pseudo-Clementine homilies.

But a revulsion from the view that the sons of
God were the angels of God, seems to have taken
place towards the latter part of the fourth century,
when Theodoretus, Chrysostom, Cyrillus of Alex-
andria, Augustine, Basilius of Selucia and Philas-
trius, took the sons of God as the descendants of
Seth. In more recent times, theology, in several
quarters, seems to have gone back to the angel-
theory. When Chrysostom says that the angels
were never styled the sons of God, it can only be
accounted for by the tact that in the Septuagint ac-
cessible to him, the passages Job i. 6, ii. 1, xxxviii. 7,
read not sons, but angels of God ; though that very
same Septuagint retains sons of God, in Psalm
xxix. 1, lxxxix. 7, also in Dan. iii. 25. Altogether
inadmissible is Theodoretus, when he says that Seth,
on account of his great piety, was himself called


God, for he evidently misinterpreted the passage,
Gen. iv. 26. Among the probable reasons why the
more ancient angel-theory was abandoned in the
fifth century, may be named the worshipping of
angels, which at that time was coming into vogue,
together with the ever-growing reputation of celi-
bacy in the fourth century. The monk was thought
to live the life of angels, who neither marry nor are
given in marriage. Yet the orthodox teaching of
the Jewish and the Christian Church till then was
clearly this, that according to Genesis vi., the angels
had come down to mingle with the daughters of

The following reasons are given on behalf of the
angel-theory: First, the usus loquendi in Scripture is
uniformly in favour of this interpretation. In Job
i. 6, ii. 1 ; and xxxviii. 7, the term of Bene Elohim,
or the sons of God, is applied to the angels of
God. Again, in Psalm xxix. 1, and lxxxix. 7, the
term "sons of the Mighty" is given to the angels
of God. It is therefore natural that the same
meaning should attach to Gen. vi. where it first
occurs. If Bene Elohim in Gen. vi. meant the
posterity of Seth, the same term, Bene Elohim
cannot signify angels in other places. Wherever
the Old Testament speaks of the human, or the
adopted sons of God, they are called sons of Jehovah,
not the sons of Elohim, which was the proper name
for the angels of God. It is further said that if the
term, "sons of God" were applicable to men, the
corresponding expression of "daughters of men,"
would be wholly stript of the contrast which it is
clearly meant to express. If "men" in Gen. vi. 1,
signifies the whole human family, including the
Sethites and the Cainites, it cannot be taken in


verse 2, in the restricted sense of the daughters of
Cain. The angels of God left their own habitation,
not keeping their first estate, deeming that their
second estate among men was more attractive. Nor
is it by any means possible to limit the female beauty
to the daughters of Cain. The sons of Elohim cast
their eyes upon "strange" flesh, and it cannot be
supposed that the best and most pious branch of the
human family had all the ugly women, whilst the
family with a curse upon their race enjoyed all the

The view that the sons of God were the angels of
God, is said to be confirmed in the Epistle of St.
Jude, the brother of our Lord, and in that of St.
Peter, the chief of the Apostles; both passages
speaking of angels who sinned and kept not their
first estate, their object of leaving it being indicated
in verse 7. "As Sodom and Gomorrha, and the
cities about them, who in like manner, as those (the
angels) have given themselves over to fornication,
and have gone after other flesh, are set forth for an
example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh."
Again, in these two passages, written at a time
when the view in question was well known to the
readers, the Apostles could not have expressed them-
selves more clearly than they did, if they meant to
refer to the angelic sons of God, whose natural name,
or nomen natural was sons of God, whilst their name
of office, nomen officii, was angels, or messengers.
Asrain, it is admitted that the book of Henoch, or
its contents, were fully known to St. Jude, who quotes
from it verses 14, 15, and if it stood there, why
should not the Apostle refer to it in verses 6 — 8,
touching the fall of angels, not of those who fell


originally, but who fell just before the flood, and the
alleged cause of which fall is recorded Gen. vi.?
Again, the word Nephilim, translated giants, ty-
rants, signifies literally, "fallen ones," i.e., fallen
down from heaven, their former habitation which
they failed to keep. The Nephilim are thus not
identical with " the Gibborim, mighty men," or giants,
but with the sons of God. These antediluvian giants
or heroes, became the semi-gods of Pagan mythology.
The Church in the first four centuries recognized in
Gen. vi., the mysterious origin of the heathen gods,
whom the Apostles describe as devils, deeming them,
it would seem, a generation of semi-gods, or semi-

Again, when the unnatural, contra-natural, supra
or supernatural element had been infused into
humanity, the destruction of the whole human race,
with a few exceptions, became absolutely necessary.
When Abraham was chosen like Noah out of a corrupt
world, that world was not to be destroyed, as in the
parallel of the great Deluge, but reserved with a
view to partake of the universal blessing with which
all nations should finally be blessed. Not the mix-
ture of the Sethites and Cainites, otherwise very
closely related, but the entrance of a totally strange
and foreign element of a higher order, could produce
the Gibborim, or giants of the antediluvians. It was
this supernatural power of the Nephilim, or of the
fallen sons of God, which fully accounts for the
mighty men of renown. The heroes of Pagan
mythology were the unnatural offspring of the sons
of God, and of the daughters of men.

Further still, the expression of Christ, in Matt.
xxii. 30, that the angels neither marry nor are given
in marriage, is met with the assertion that it is just


because it was not natural, but against their nature
and destiny, that the unheard of judgment was
suddenly brought upon the human race, by which,
with the exception of one family, they were rooted
out, that this mysterious alliance was not more
impossible on their leaving their first estate and
habitation, than was their human-like eating and
drinking, and their speaking with a human voice, as
men among men. Granted, that the angels are not
competent by their original nature to marry, yet it
is not thereby proved that on forsaking their first
estate they might not have become capable of so
doing. Man was not created that he might fall and
die, and yet leaving his first estate man both fell and
died. Man was to multiply in God's image, but
having fallen, Adam "begat a son in his own like-
ness." The possibility of a given event stands firm
till its impossibility has been fairly proved. How,
for instance, is it possible that there should be such
a thing as possession ? There is a spiritual body,
and there is a natural body, but who will define
what is the real difference between them? "We
know it was by the power of the Holy Ghost that
the Virgin Mary conceived and brought forth a son.
The angels on leaving their own habitation, and
sinking down upon this earth, may have assumed
bodies to suit their new fallen estate.

The angels have no human body, but they can
assume the semblance of a human body. The Fathers
of the Church held that these heavenly messengers
were not altogether incorporeal. They have a glory
which might be called their body ; at all events they
possess the power of assuming the appearance of a
body. The Bible neither teaches expressly that the
angels have bodies, nor that they have not. They


have, indeed, no flesh and blood, but bodies imma-
terial, spiritual, or pneumatic ; and the question is
worth considering whether the fall of angels did not
involve a tendency to materialization of some sort.
Such are some of the arguments in favour of the
sons of God being the angels of God.

The most weighty objection against the theory seems
to be, that as the angels were neither meant to marry
or to be given in marriage, they were in consequence
never endowed by God with this special gift, nor is it
probable that God would bestow the gift upon them
after they had fallen. Nature can only develop,
pervert, and abuse God's gifts, but it cannot pro-
duce them. Yet if angels were not destined to marry,
neither was man destined to commit sin, and
thus fail to attain his high destiny. The angels
must be regarded as a stage in advance of man, and
if the children of the resurrection are to be like
them, the question might arise, whether it was not
possible for the angels to sink down or to fall back
upon a lower infeiior stage, and subsequently
manifest on that lower stage, or in that lower
sphere, some latent power, such as the assum-
ing of a body, which in some respects corresponded
to the human body, just as the "children of the
resurrection ' ' will assume hereafter bodies answer-
ing those of the holy angels of God ?

Granting that this is a mystery of iniquity and a
paradox without equal, and allowing, moreover, for
argument's sake, that if the angel-theory, as the most
difficult and mysterious signification of Gen. vi.
were to be adopted, yet mythology there could be
none ; on the contrary, it would point to the great
source of all heathen mythology, and explain that
there was more than an ordinary excess of human


wickedness, which rendered such a unique judg-
ment indispensable. If, whilst faithful to their
first estate, the angels desire to look into the mys-
teries of grace 1 Peter i. 12, is it not possible that,
on leaving that first estate, they might have desired
to look into the deepest mysteries of nature ? The
fall of man by eating some forbidden fruit, is quite
as mysterious as the fall of angels, even if it had
been caused by the beauty of the daughters of men.
Lastly, as there are divers orders of angels, endowed,
no doubt, with divers natures, and with different
kinds of spiritual bodies, is it unreasonable to assume
that some of their natures or some of their spiritual
bodies may have been more congenial to our own
nature than others ? Yet whatever we may now
think of the view of angels intermarrying with
the daughters of men before the flood, it is the view
which was espoused by the whole Jewish synagogue
and by the undivided Christian Church for the first
four centuries.

2. The Flood Legends of Asiatic Nations.

Though localised and national, the flood legends of
the nations point more or less to Armenia, as the
great centre from whence the new race made a fresh
start after the Deluge. The precise mountain upon
which the ark landed is not determined in Genesis.
Some think of Arar Djudi or the Snowy Arar.
Others point to the Gordyan or Taurian mountains,
known as the Masis, and called by the Turks, Agri-
depe, i.e., the strong mountain, or Saad-depe, i.e.,
the blessed mountain ; the Persians have given it
the name of Koh-Nuh, i.e., the mountain of Noah.
It is 16,000 feet high, and at the base of it a cloister
is pointed out by tradition in which Noah made his
abode. In the neighbourhood is the oldest town in


Armenia, Nakidskewan, which existed as early as
the days of the Median king Astyages, and which,
my young Armenian friend, Petrus Aganoor, tells
me, signifies, " the place of descent." The Arme-
nians formerly kept their new year in the month of
Nawasart, which means " the ark is landed," and on
it they sprinkled themselves with water and sent
forth doves.

Most striking are the flood legends of the Chaldeo-
Babylonians as they have been preserved to us by
the Belus priest Berosus, who lived in the third
century before Christ. We seem to listen to the
same story as in Genesis, only with a variation of
names. Xisuthrus, the Babylonian Noah, received
a warning in a dream from Bel, Baal, or Belus,
that mankind would be destroyed by a flood on the
15th of the month Dyesios. He commanded
Xisuthrus to write all the sciences and the know-
ledge of men and to hide the document in Siparis.
After that, he was to build a ship, more than 2800
feet long, and 1100 to 1200 feet broad; he was to
enter into it with his family, to provide it with
food, and to take with him all kinds of animals and

When the flood subsided, Xisuthrus sends forth a
bird, but it comes back to the ship, not finding a
place upon which to settle down. A second bird
sent out, returns with mud on its feet. The third
bird never returns. When the ship lands upon a
mountain in Armenia, Xisuthrus, with his wife and
daughter and the pilot, is said to have built an
altar unto the gods, and after offering up sacrifices
he is translated to heaven. When Berosus wrote,
remnants of the gigantic ship were still to be seen
on the mountain, and from them amulets were cut,


which were thought to possess healing virtue. Zoro-
vanus, Titan, and Japetosthes, the three successors of
Xisuthrus, divided the rule of the world among

A parallel account has recently been brought to
light by Mr. George Smith, who translated the
Deluge tablet of the cuneiform inscriptions found
in the palace of Assurbanipal, at Nineveh. It pro-
fesses to be written in the days of Jzdubar soon
after the flood. The name itself is only known
in monogram, and cannot as yet be read pho-
netically, but the translator thinks it is to be
read, Nimrod, the cuneiform characters pointing to
Namur and E-adu, Namurradu. But more decided
than the phonetic reading of the name of Izdubar,
is his character ; he is called the " powerful giant,"
and " ffiant kin<?." This Izdubar-Namuradu, as we
may call him provisionally, lived in the city of
Erech, now called Worka, which must have been
one of the most ancient cities of the world.

The father of the flood patriarch is Ubara-tutu,
which ought to correspond with the Otiartes, or more
correctly Opart es, and Adartes, of the Greek text of
Berosus. Yet although there is an agreement be-
tween these names respectively, there is none with
the Hebrew Lamech. Yet, taking Lamech in the
sense of overthrower, there is, at least, a similar
meaning, if not a similar sound, for Ubara-tutu may
mean reducer or subduer, or " reducer to slavery."

The name of the flood-patriarch himself in the
cuneiform writing, is Adrahasis or llasisadra;
Berosus makes it Sisuthrus, Sisithrus, or Xisuthrus,
which is not very unlike Hasisadra. As many
ancient names with two elements were used with
either element first, as Assur-duri and Duri-assur,


Iriba-vul and Vul-iriba, or among the Jews
Jehoahaz or Ahaziah, the inscriptions give Xisuthrus
both as Adrahasis and Hasisadra. Still more remote
and altogether unlike is the Bible name, Noah. Yet
as there is a similar meaning in Izdubar and Nimrod,
and in Ubaru-tutu and Lamech, so there is a similar
meaning in the names Hasisadra and Noah, the
former signifying, attentive to worship, reverential,
intimating the pious character of the Chaldean
patriarch, in direct contrast with the father Ubaru-
tntu, reducer to slavery. Noah, with whom he is
to correspond, signifies rest or peace; this also in
direct contrast to his father Lamech, which expresses
strife, or signifies the overthrower. Thus although
Noah's name does not tally in sound with Xisuthrus,
Xisithrus, Adrahasis or Hasisadra, the character
of piety in both is the same. The following is a
literal version by Mr. Smith, of the deluge tablet,
the injured parts being indicated by dots.

"Izdubar said to Xisithrus the remote: I am
burdened with the matter Xisithrus, why thou
repeatest not to me from thee, and thou repeatest
not to me from thee; thy ceasing, my heart to

make war presses of thee, I come up after

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Online LibraryJohn Muehleisen ArnoldGenesis and science; or The first leaves of the Bible → online text (page 16 of 27)