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Dec 14, 2006


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I presume that you will also have done a chart linking all the elements in Daniel and Revelation.:-)

Michael W. Kruse


Oh yeah! I could easily have gone there. Fortunately, that little experience with the genealogies clued me in to asking some questions about how the original readers might have understood things before launching into that project. :)

Carol Regehr

What a fun, insightful memory! Raymond Brown did a generation-by-generation analysis of the two genealogies of Jesus, also comparing them with the genealogies in Genesis, Ruth, and Kings and Chronicles, in his classic _Birth of the Messiah_.

Another interesting commentary on this kind of issue, from _Ministering Cross-Culturally: An incarnational model for personal relationships_, by Sherwood G. Lingenfelter and Marvin K. Mayers (Baker Book House, 1986), pp. 53-54:
"After I had learned to speak the Yapese language, I asked some of the old people to tell me stories about the origin of Yap and about Yapese cultural history. As I listened to these accounts, I began to sort them into an integrated whole. One story told about the first family in Yap and how they had settled and had children, who were the founders of the modern clans. Another story told about the great flood that came to Yap, washing away the central mountain and destroying all of the island except for one family with seven children. The seven all settled in different places and then began producing children of their own. I asked, reminiscent of the age-old question as to where Cain got his wife, where these people got their spouses, since they did not marry each other. The Yapese answered that they did not know and that it was not important. They insisted I did not understand the meaning of the story. I persisted with another line of questioning. The Yapese have about thirty different matrilineal clans, and each has a story of its origin. For example, the porpoise clan, the rope clan, and the mushroom clan all have separate accounts of their origins, so I asked how these stories fit in with the flood story. My informants shook their heads in despair. "These having nothing to do with the flood story. Why do you insist on putting these things together? They are completely different."

"My problem in interviewing the Yapese was that my nature and my training encouraged me to line everything up in rows. I want to have everything sorted, systematically organized, and fitting into its proper place. I like to divide everything into constituent parts and then resort them into a clear pattern. American culture generally rewards this type of thinking.

"Science, social science, and theology are all organizing and systematizing disciplines. The Hebrews, however, were not systematic, and apparently as God revealed himself to them, he did not insist that they become so. They expressed their comprehension of God in holistic forms such as independent narratives, life histories, and prophecies. The Old Testament nowhere attempts to put everything together in a systematic way. Someone who likes to see everything in clearly outlined relationships might call the Hebrews disorganized. But they communicated in a holistic style. They did not worry about sorting everything into a comprehensive system; each point was part of a distinctive and separate whole. In contrast, our Western, Greco-European tradition seeks an Aristotelian comprehension of the universe, one that sorts everything systematically into a logically cohesive world-view." (end of quote)

Michael W. Kruse

Great quote, Carol. Thanks!


When I was reading the Pentateuch for my first OT class in seminary, I got in the habit of using Bible Gateway to pay attention to how when a name was used, where it reoccured later or earlier.

From this, I came to realize the extent that the book emphasizes the importance of the generational transmission of sins and blessings. You see the emergence of a notion of history where there is frequent repetition with alterations. This matters when you think of how so many cultures see existence as endless repetition.

Anyways, it is my attention to genealogy that enabled me to come up with the idea that Job was Bethuel, the other grandfather of Israel. I hope to get that paper published this next year.


Michael W. Kruse

Sounds like an interesting paper. Let us know when you get it published.

Peter Kirk

This is interesting. But in fact there is not necessarily a contradiction between the genealogies of Moses and Joshua. First we have to note that the 430 years of Exodus 12:40: according to the LXX and the Samaritan Pentateuch this period seems to start with Abraham rather than Jacob, so the time in Egypt was only about 200 years. This time can easily be spanned by the recorded ancestors of Moses if they kept up the family tradition of not having children until they were around 50. (Note that they all had long lives; the age of death of every one of Moses' ancestors back to Adam is recorded, and Moses' 120 years was shorter than any of them; maybe there was some genetic factor here, to explain how they lived past 120, although I won't try to explain Methusaleh's 969 years with genetics.) On the other hand, the tribe of Judah may have followed the more normal practice in the region of having children by about age 20, hence the ten generations in 200 years in Joshua's family.

Now I am not trying to claim that all biblical genealogies are complete, just that the issue is not in fact a simple one.


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Alan Lunn

Just a comment on isogesis because I may be guilty or perceived as such. I studied, in the '90's, an old theory expressed by late rabbis and early church fathers. From this a book emerged where I was never dogmatic about the idea.

You might think of it as "chiliasm", but it was the idea that there was a 7,000-year millennial structure to history, particularly the history recorded in the Masoretic text most people use.

When that model was pasted over the biblical genealogies (without testing them as you have) it seemed like a tight fit (isogesis).
When one adds the genealogies of the Old Testament together, it produces a 4,000-year, literalist picture of biblical history from Adam to the cross. This was what Bishop Ussher did using certain assumptions about the birth of Christ.

I am not like evangelicals who struggle with evolution or demand young-earth creationism. But approaching the Bible as a very integrated mystical document is compelling to me. There was a metaphysical structure to "the plan of God" that the old rabbis and fathers were touching, if ever so briefly. It was as if Peter and David's key (1 day = 1,000 years)was an invitation to isogesis that they took.

I too favor exegesis most of the time and recognize the danger of forcing something on scripture that can radically reinterpret it. It has to be rigorously tested if ever accepted. But I am not convinced that isogesis is never valid or helpful. It can, as in the case of the old theory, even potentially add insight to the big picture.

Michael Kruse

Thanks Alan. We who live in the post-enlightenment world tend equate truth with historically precise reporting. When we try to read that back onto the text we create all sorts of problems. The Bible presents interpretation of history through stories and the precision of the details are secondary (or even irrelevant) truth. That is where I think it is important to read the Bible as the authors and readers would have understood it.

The original authors were utterly unconcerned about precise history and far more interested in theological truth the genealogies realted. The idea of communicating an orderly 7,000 year structure makes sense to me becasue of the truth they wanted to communicate. It seems dishonest to us but it was throughly legit in pre-Enlightenment cutlures

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