A Witness to History

Many critics of the Bible are all too happy to dismiss the integrity of the Genesis account based on the fact that Moses wrote the Torah many millennia after the events of Genesis. What is the reality of the situation though?

Genesis, that intriguing first book of the Bible, records many miraculous events, including the Creation, the Noahic flood, the Tower of Babel and others. Due of the phenomenal nature of these events, skeptic doggedly disregard their historicity, not just in regard to their supernatural qualities, but also because Moses never witnessed these events himself. The deliverer of the Israelites, we must admit, lived quite a long time after the lives of Adam, Noah, Abraham and the other patriarchs Genesis records. Skeptics thus question how any reliable history at all could be transmitted over the course of at least three millennia without a written language.

Such critics are far too quick to dismiss the integrity of oral tradition, or rather the act of passing down history through word-of-mouth. Even so, looking beyond this feasible possibility, such would not be necessary if the history in question was transmitted through written records. All things considered, it is entirely likely that the early patriarchs of Genesis would have utilized cuneiform for just that purpose. Those records would have represented not only the personal and familial history of the patriarchs, but also important events and occasions of note. Such details, passed down generationally, would have been incredibly valuable to their descendants and thus would likely have been carefully maintained through the millennia. Could Moses have simply – under the guidance of the Spirit – arranged the ancient accounts of his forerunners? There is good reason to believe so.

In the 1930s, author P. J. Wiseman wrote in “New Discoveries in Babylonia about Genesis” that characteristic patterns in the the very language of Genesis suggests that it is comprised of several separate accounts. These accounts were very likely written originally in cuneiform or something similar -by Adam, Noah, and others – with Moses acting more as a compiler and editor of the accounts rather than strictly as the author. Wiseman’s thesis is based largely on a series of characteristic phrases, known as colophons, located at key positions through the book of Genesis. Colophons in cuneiform typically conveyed information about a particular literary work, including a description of the work or the name of the author.

As noted by Lubenow,¹ Genesis appears to possess a number of colophons. This of course suggests that there is truth to the transcription hypothesis, that the book as a whole was indeed assembled and edited by Moses some time after the events were first recorded.

Genesis 5:1 is an excellent example of such, stating “This is the book of the generations of Adam.” The use of the Hebrew word sepher, meaning “book” or “written work,” which among other indicators, suggests that the chapter may in fact have originally been regarded as a complete work and not simply a portion of a larger account. Furthermore, as with other cuneiformic colophons, the usage and placement of Adam’s name in the text also seems to indicate that the account was not simply just written about him, but was instead written by him, or at the very least was owned by him. The implications are that Genesis 2:5 – 5:1 were likely originally written by Adam himself as a firsthand account!

References:

  1. IBID Lubenow, Marvin L., “Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils” Revised Edition, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 2004, pg 316-325

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