Oh, for gods sake – on memory.

I came across this blog post a while back, copied it for my own reference , and for the life of me cannot remember who the author was. If you know or are the author give me a heads up.

”Here is what I consider to be even a bigger problem with the genealogies. Who carries 14 much less 42 generations of genealogy around with them? Are we really to expect that Adam’s grandkids dreamed up the concept of a genealogy? Adam didn’t need one, and his kids, the first generation wouldn’t have needed one, but someone of the next generation or soon thereafter must have foreseen a need to start keeping track of people from succeeding generations. So, if we assume Bishop Ussher’s chronology to be a bare minimum, and let’s assume he was actually right, that the Earth was created in October of 4004 BCE, then by Jesus birth day, there was approximately 4000 years of genealogy to have been kept through all the turbulent Genesis days such as the scattering of people from the Tower of Babel to the ends of the earth, culminating in the flood. Then Noah must’ve passed out copies of his forebears to his sons, who then continued the tradition of adding to the genealogies through hundreds of years of Egyptian captivity and enslavement, then through the Exodus, and then through 40 years of wandering, continually looking for a better campsite in the Sinai than the one they had the night before. One wonders, for being an illiterate group of nomads, how were they accurately keeping track of the thousands of births and deaths at this juncture? But somehow they continue keeping accurate records through Nebuchadnezzar’s captivity and all the various kingships and dynasties and the Maccabean revolts and the Roman occupation, and then, after Jesus birth, 75 or 80 more years until said genealogies conveniently fall into the hands of Matthew and Luke. How many of Joseph’s tribal kinsmen also kept their familial papers in order for 4000 years in hopes that the messiah would be born of their line? With all the modern advantages I have, I can’t trace my genealogy back much over 200 years. How credulous must one be to believe that ancient shepherds even gave a rat’s hind quarters about such things and could manage to keep these records, not to mention that Herod the Great burned the temple’s genealogies (according to Eusebius) some time after Jesus’ birth and before Herod’s death which couldn’t have been a span of more than a few years. No, sorry, didn’t happen. It’s all a concoction.”


27 thoughts on “Oh, for gods sake – on memory.

  1. I am currently reading “In Search of Ancient Israel” by Philip R. Davies and he set about trying to determine who wrote the books of the OT. He thinks it likely that the two genealogies were written by different groups of scribes, each having access to various scrolls then in existence. Since there was no plan from the outset to combine all of these scrolls into a book, the differences never came to a redactor’s attention until much later.

    He also asks and tries to answer “why were these books written in the first place.” It is clear to him that the purpose was not to create religious scripture but to create a backstory for the Hebrews who “returned” from Babylon (which may or may not have been the same crowd that were relocated in the first place) to bolster their claims that they are the rightful rulers of the area (Judea at the time). Plus they were not intended for circulation but to provide for the internal needs of the elites then in the Temple.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Yeah … I just read/skimmed that at Mak’s suggestion. Some of the stuff he references really puts my gag reflex to work.


          1. Isn’t it interesting how Christians all seem to know “what God wants”? Guess it’s that tin-can phone line at work.

            Liked by 2 people

  2. Has this topic become an obsession?

    Admittedly it was fun for a while but it is actually unproductive. You won’t change a genuine dyed-in-the-wool religionist any more that they can convince you of their god, God, gods, godlets and things that fly in the sky with songs on their lips (and immaculately impregnate the virgin wives of holy cuckolds).

    Give them away, let them doom themselves by their own choice—whilst you innoculate (such as you can reach) their downlines with Reason.
    You won’t be first to the tabula rasa but certainly you can limit the effects of their graffiti a bit.

    BUT: I advise against standing up in a House of God and stating that God sucks. That would be neither clever nor productive. (Although you may go into the atheist’s annals as yet another martyr.)


  3. I can’t help with finding the source for your quote, but I highly recommend using the Google Keep extension for taking future notes.

    Once installed, right-clicking on the highlighted text and selecting “Save selection to Keep” will add both the quoted text and the web address from whence it was taken to the note. Plus, you can assign titles, labels and/or colours to your notes to make searches easier.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Genealogical record is the bedrock of historiography, Ark,
    so, given that your original blogger seems to have tacked this little list of assumptions on to a more serious piece as an afterthought, you’ve possibly done them a favour by forgetting who he/she is.


      1. Good question, Ark,
        and the simple answer is anyone who’s learned them by rote — like learning the times tables — especially when people have repeated them over and over again together in unison. Have a listen to Siol Ghoraidh by Runrig: you’ll get the context explained about 17 minutes into City of Lights


        1. The simplest answer is that the genealogies didn’t exist until they were needed, like when the original books were getting drafted. Otherwise, you’re talking about people holding onto an accurate oral tradition for a few thousand years. That’s pretty amazing, considering how much the Bible has changed in less time – and it’s in writing.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. That, Sirius,
            is a simplistic answer rather than a simple one and you’d have to surmise different ‘needs’ for different Biblical genealogies. In the end you’d have a collection of ad hoc answers rather than the simple one desired. That’s not to say that there’s nothing in the notion of linking the form of genealogical presentation with the time of document compilation: one piece of rather compelling and incontrovertible evidence for the contemporary authorship of the Exodus narrative is that the early genealogies in Genesis — which purports to give us a history of the period from the creation to the sojourn in Egypt — have ten names in them. Apparently ten-generation records were considered de rigueur for a claim of right to be made in late bronze age/early iron age civilisations.


          2. No, it’s a simple answer in that it makes the fewest assumptions about the writings. That is, these genealogies wouldn’t have to be accurate or even reference real people in order to exist. All it would take is an agreement on the part of the writers of each genealogy.

            And ten-generation records isn’t necessarily evidence of the historical or factual accuracy of biblical writings. It could be a product of influence by foreign cultures (like the flood story in Genesis).

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Not so, Ark,
            because the ten-generation pattern only proves contemporanity with the Exodus, not its veracity. That’s a different argument altogether.


          4. Fair enough. Then if this is your argument then please offer evidence to demonstrate the veracity of the biblical claim.


          5. The ad hocery is needed, Sirius,
            as soon as you get to the purposes for which various genealogies are cited. That aside, you are right to point out the possibility that the ten-generation form was adopted in imitation of what other cultures were doing at the time — that is roughly the point I’m making about contemporaneity — but that consideration also places the Genesis Flood narrative before those other narratives that it is widely supposed to have been copied from.
            The early chapters of Genesis have their structural integrity from the genealogies which string together seven stories:
            • Adam’s story.
            • Cain’s story.
            • Enoch’s story.
            • Noah’s story.
            • Nimrod’s story.
            • Eber’s story.
            • Terah’s story.
            Contemporary historiography organises its material according to a timeline and while there is a reason for the numbers in Genesis adding up, attaching dates to ancient events is a Western obsession that can lead us astray with ancient records such as Genesis. It is genealogical ordering that we have here and not a timeline but for all that the genealogies indicate that these stories are given in historical form rather than mythical form.


          6. I don’t think you understand what “ad hoc” means. One doesn’t have to assume any motive, reason, or agenda behind concluding that the writings of the Hebrew religion weren’t decided until they were written, other than that it had to have been important to the writers. You’re the one arguing that these genealogies had to have existed before they were written down.

            So far, all you’ve alleged is that the Hebrews doing the writing were at least influenced by their contemporaries. That doesn’t logically entail that there must be an oral history. All it means is that the Hebrews were influenced by the civilizations around them.


          7. The best kind of historical verification, Ark,
            is supplied by counter-intuitive statements in the text that have explanations now that could not possibly have been available at the time. Since we are working from the premiss that the organising principle of Genesis is genealogy, we ought to look for genetic, social and familial factors in each of the brief biographies in the early chapters.
            • Adam’s story: Eve so named because she will be ‘the mother of all living.’ Recent genetic study demonstrates fairly convincingly that there was such a person as our matrilineal most recent common ancestor.
            • Cain’s story: Since ‘Cain knew his wife’ he must have had one but the Bible doesn’t tell us where she came from. Marriage between siblings was condemned as incestuous at the time Genesis was written and even in Today’s Liberal society it is still illegal because of the likelihood that both of the sibs will carry harmful recessive genes. Since such genes are added to the genepool spasmodically and gradually there was a time when they did not exist. Incest was not an issue for the first generation but nobody could possibly have known why it was not an issue until modern genetics explained it.
            • Enoch’s story: That a life on earth being shortened to 365 years was considered to be a reward is definitely counter-intuitive. It now seems to be quite legitimate to ask, ‘Could there be someone alive today who will live to be 1000 years old?’
            • Noah’s story: It is quite a common thing to name our patrilineal most recent common ancestor as Y-chromosome Adam but, although the back-projected figures fluctuate somewhat as the data are refined, a time gap between the matrilineal mrca and the partilineal equivalent supports the Biblical record that our patrilineal mrca was actually Noah and not Adam, himself.
            • Nimrod’s story: The enigmatic statement that Nimrod was ‘a mighty hunter before the Lord’ seems to indicate that he found a way to rise to the top and unite everyone without needing to enter into combat with every champion that came along to challenge him, and yet all we are left with to remember him by is an aphorism. However, the expansion of the mention of Nimrod in such short form would hardly have been done if contemporaries of the author of Genesis did not know of him beforehand. Given that we are moving towards the departure of Terah from Ur the prior indication of Nimrod’s importance is just as would be expected because all Nimrod’s cities were in that region.
            • Eber’s story: Similarly with Eber, whose son Peleg received his name because of the division of the languages at Babel. Especially since the fault line between Indo-European and Afroasiatic languages falls in this region it would have been counter-intuitive to have just made up the concept of a single ancient language from which contemporary languages were derived but that is what modern linguistics demands.
            • Terah’s story: For a prominent citizen to leave the ancient Assyrian hegemony; lock, stock and barrel, and transfer his allegience to the Egyptians would not have been a thing easily imagined by any contemporary of the composition of Genesis. That there was a time when such a thing was possible is obviously necessary for Terah’s story to work and to say that it was possible ‘in Terah’s day’ fits the nominal/ordinal, genealogical historiography far better than any translation into a timeline historiography possibly could for that time.

            The genealogies are not only historical documents; they are historiographic structures that have to be taken seriously.


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