Table of Contents
Part IV: Remarkable Biblical Confirmations
From Abraham to Abel: Fact or Fiction?
IF THE PURPOSE
of this Paper were merely to provide a summary review of the
archaeological evidence in support of Scripture, it would not
do to close with the fall of Jericho. We would have to go on
to consider a host of other exciting discoveries of recent years
-- the pit in which seventy slain men were thrown
(Jeremiah 41: 7), (65)
the tomb containing the remains of people to whom Paul refers
in Romans 16:8, (66)
and other equally dramatic finds such as are ably recorded by
Joseph Free, Merrill Unger, and others. But this is not the purpose
we have in mind.
What we have been attempting to
show is that, in a peculiar way, the earlier portions of Scripture
have tended to be confirmed with even greater precision than
many of the later stories. It is these earlier records with their
extraordinary circumstantial detail which were formerly most
discredited. The walls of Jericho did fall down "flat",
and this after the Israelites had merely marched around the city
a number of times. The waters of Jordan did "stand up in
a heap". The quails (as we shall see in the appendix) did
fly over the camp of the Israelites at a height of approximately
three feet. There is nothing whatever in the story of Moses which
any longer seems unlikely, and we have even more evidence that
the same must be admitted of Joseph. When we come to Abraham,
in one chapter alone (Genesis 14) so many details are given,
each of which was a potential source of error, that it almost
looks as though it was God's policy to make the earlier records
more precisely capable of ultimate vindication than the later
65. See on this remarkable find,
including possibly some of the skeletons (!), Garrow Duncan,
The Accuracy of the Old Testament, S.P.C.K., London, 1930,
1 of 16
66. For a brief account of this, see A. Rendle Short, The
Bible and Modern Research, Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London,
no date, p.82.
But as we go back beyond Abraham, names and events
are accumulated in ever increasing density until every single
verse provides some new piece of information which is presented
to the reader as though there could never be the slightest doubt
about its historical reality. Other such ancient manuscripts
become increasingly filled with mythological detail: we depart
more and more from reality until we are in the presence of demigods
and monsters and other such imaginary creations bordering upon
fantasy. But not so with Scripture. If possible, the account
becomes more factual, more like a simple straightforward chronicle
of fact with every step taken back toward the beginning. The
dividing of the nations after the Flood, the escape of Noah and
his family chronicled like a modern ship's log, the building
of the first cities, the invention of musical instruments and
of technical arts, the first murder arising out of a circumstance
which has been repeated throughout history and which bears the
hallmark of plain truth, and suddenly we find ourselves in the
presence of two very real and very human beings -- Adam and Eve.
Where in this chain of events do we pass from fact into fantasy?
The answer is, Nowhere. The transition is simply impossible to
Hitherto, archaeology seems to
have found its greatest service in validating Scripture from
the time of Abraham onward. Little has been found to carry the
light of confirmation back beyond this. Is this because it is
here that history begins and myth ends in Scripture? I think
not. Although the evidence from archaeology applicable to pre-Abrahamic
times is, in the nature of the case, less substantial than it
is for subsequent ages, there is evidence nonetheless. Indeed,
by its very nature, while less impressive in the minds of those
who perhaps have not given the matter the thought it deserves,
what evidence there is is all the more remarkable because of
the circumstances. How could one expect to find archaeological
evidence of events taking place before a Flood which virtually
wiped out all that went before? Yet such evidence exists, and
because of its sparseness it demands greater attention. Not all
of it is archaeological in the sense that it results from excavation,
yet indirectly we would not have most of this information were
it not for archaeology. The evidence which we shall now examine,
therefore, is only indirectly archaeological but is an important
part of this Paper nonetheless. We shall work backward in this
brief survey, extracting everything we can from the light we
have at the present moment until it begins to fail us altogether.
But when this has been done, we shall find ourselves virtually
at the entrance to the Garden of Eden.
have already noted the importance of the record of Abraham's
antecedents as given in Genesis 11 insofar as they shed a wonderful
light upon his relationship to Sarah. This chapter opens with
the account of the proposed building of the Tower of Babel. There
is no longer any doubt that such a tower was attempted. Nor is
there much doubt that the agreement to make bricks in place of
stone was exactly the kind of agreement these people would have
reached, coming as they did from a region where stone was plentiful
into one where it was very scarce indeed. That they were capable
at this very early period of achieving the organization necessary
for undertaking such a community effort is now unquestionable.
Moreover, the level topography of southern Babylonia is such
that a tower of sufficient height would serve those who were
without other means of direction-finding as a landmark for rallying
even after they had settled widely over the land (verse 4 --
so the Hebrew), exactly as the record implies. It would readily
be seen from great distances whenever it became necessary to
come together for defense or any other reason.
In short, everything about this
particular incident makes perfectly good sense in the light of
what we know now. By a device of beautiful simplicity, God apparently
miraculously accelerated the divergence of pronunciation and
small shifts of meaning which we see occurring even today at
a much slower rate which lead to the formation of dialects. Co-operative
effort which depends so heavily upon free communication was rendered
impossible between men who became effectively unintelligible
to one another. In time, dialectic differences became language
differences. And cuneiform, which was the means of written communication
in use at that time, bears evidence of being a vehicle which
has suffered considerable confusion, single ideographs often
having a bewildering number of sound values. This is exactly
what would happen if a group of people who shared these signs
did actually, for some reason, begin to attach to them quite
different values. (67)
This very fact was one of the reasons
for the similar confusion of modern scholars when they first
began to decipher ideographs. Their difficulties bore mute testimony
to Genesis 11:7. The evidence for the confusion of language itself
has been explored in another Paper, "The Confusion of Language"
(Part V in vol.6, Time and Eternity) and will not be repeated
here. But it may be stated with a reasonable measure of assurance
67. As an illustration, the simple sign has among its some twenty-two
sound values the following: Ut, Ud, Tam, Par, and Hish!
Imagine how many different ways a word could be pronounced when
a single element in it could be any one of twenty-two such sounds!
evidence for the truth
of Genesis 11:1 increases daily, so that languages which were
once thought to be absolutely unrelated are no longer held to
be so. It becomes increasingly likely that linguists will find
it possible to establish direct relationships between all known
languages, ancient and modern, thereby demonstrating the truth
stated here in Genesis 11:1 that all men once shared a common
Genesis 11:2 states that the people
who first settled in Babylonia came from the east, from Elam.
There is no doubt, in the light of present knowledge, that this
statement is absolutely correct. Subsequently there arose a powerful
leader in this area by the name of Nimrod. At the present moment,
it cannot be said for certain that he has been identified, although
a number of possibilities exist, the most probable ones being
that he is to be equated with either Merodach or Ningirshu, both
of whom were later deified.
The possible equation of this biblical
character's name with Merodach is based on the supposition that
the form "Merodach" is to be derived from a root meaning
"to rebel", the consonants of which would be m-r-d.
The prefix nin meaning "son of" would then give
us a derived form signifying "son of rebellion" or
some such compound as Nin-mirud, or simply Nimrod.
The second possibility - -namely,
that Nimrod is to be equated with Nin-gir-shu -- is based upon
a statement (which I have not been able to verify) that according
to Brunnow's "Classified List of Sumerian Ideographs,"
the signs read as gir-shu could also be read as mir-rud.
to Labat, the sound value mir can be read as gir,
so that nim-gir could be nim-mir, thus accounting
for the first part of Nimrod's name. The substitution of ud
for shu I have not been able to verify. However, if Nimrod
and Nin-gir-shu or Nim-gir-shu are alternatives, an interesting
sidelight is shed upon this individual's history as the result
of archaeological work undertaken in Nigeria.
In the first place, the father
of Nimrod was Cush, and the name "Cush" is applied
to several localities (where presumably his descendants settled),
one in Africa. In an article which deals with some magnificent
Nigerian bronze heads, K. C. Murray, speaking of the Yoruba tribe
where they originated, has this to say: (69)
Legends concerning the origins
of the Yoruba seem to deal with the establishment of a ruling
dynasty. It is believed that in the second millennium B.C. a
people known as the Kishites [Cushites?] began to enter the Horn
of Africa from Mesopotamia and later gradually spread westward.
. . . According to the account of Sultan Bello of Sokoto,
the Yoruba were of the Tribe of Nimrod.
68. Labat, Rene, ref.25, p.159.
69. Murray, K. C., "Nigerian Bronzes," Antiquity
(England), March, 1941, p.76.
is customary in reading cuneiform to replace the weak letter
n at the end of a syllable by doubling the next consonant
or by lengthening the vowel which precedes it. Thus Nin-gir-shu
would tend to be pronounced as "Nigger-shu", or "Nyger-shu".
It may very well be that we have here not only the origin of
the word "Nigeria" (pronounced with a long i),
but even of the form "nigger", for the native of Africa.
The only representations of Nimrod of which I am aware are those
given by Hislop, where he is shown as negroid. (70)
According to R. D. Dennett, (71) the Yoruba tribe claims
that the founder of their race had a wife whose name meant "child
of brass". And if we go back a little farther in the line
of Ham, the father of Nimrod, we finally arrive at an individual
who was said to have originated the art of working metals, iron
and brass. In Genesis 4:22 his name is given as Tubal-Cain; although
the name does not appear in this form in antiquity, R. J. Forbes,
(72) one of the
outstanding authorities on metallurgy in antiquity, points out
that Cain means "smith". According to the same author,
one of the tribes long associated with metal working in the ancient
world was the Tibareni, whom many scholars identify with Tubal,
the l and r being interchangeable.
We may go one step further in this
by noting the fact that the name of the individual who came to
be constituted the god of the Tiber (a clearly related word)
was Vulcan. To my mind there is very little doubt that Tubal-Cain
is the earliest form of the name "Vulcan", which in
its later stages was merely shortened by the omission of the
Tu-. In his commentary on Genesis, Marcus Dods
(73) points out
that everything is so faithfully perpetuated in the East that
the blacksmith of the village Bubbata-ez-zetua referred to the
iron "splinters" struck off while working at his forge
as "tubal". Is it entirely a coincidence that we should
refer to an iron worker as a blacksmith, (74) in view of the fact that
these Hamitic people, themselves probably dark-skinned, seem
to have been the initial workers in iron?
70. Hislop, Alexander, The Two Babylons,
Partridge, London, 1903, pp.44, 47.
71. Dennett, R. D., Nigerian Studies, London, 1910,
72. Forbes, R. J., Metallurgy in Antiquity, Brill,
Leiden, 1950, pp.97, 88.
73. Dods, Marcus, Genesis, Clark, Edinburgh, no
date, p.26, footnote.
74. It is, of course, possible that the colour of the metal
is in view. But all other smiths are named for the metal they
work, i.e., coppersmith, tinsmith.
the traditions regarding Vulcan are rather interesting. He is,
of course, associated with fire and the working of metals, later
appearing as the divine smith of the Roman Tubilustrum. (75) He is said to have been
a cripple, having been thrown out of heaven by Jupiter as a punishment
for having taken the part of his mother in a quarrel which occurred
between them. (76)
In Genesis 4:23 there is a rather
extraordinary story of how Lamech took vengeance on a young man
for wounding him. Lamech's son was Tubal-Cain, perhaps none other
than Vulcan subsequently deified. In the brief account in Genesis
it is stated that Lamech had two wives, one of whom was named
Zillah. Let us suppose, for a moment, that it was with Zillah
that Lamech had quarreled and that Tubal-Cain, son of Zillah,
took his mother's part and got into a fight with his father,
Lamech. Whatever happened to Lamech is not clear, although he
appears to have been wounded; but Tubal-Cain himself was injured
sufficiently to become thereafter a lame man. Now, it is customary
in a society where a man may have more than one wife to name
each child, not after the father, but after the mother, since
this obviously assures more precise identification. Thus any
child of Zillah, besides having a personal name, would also be
known as "Son of Zillah". If language at this time
was some form of Semitic, this alternative name would very probably
have become Bar-Zillah, i.e., son of Zillah. But custom early
established the principle that names ending in -ah were
reserved for females, the masculine form later ending in the
letter -u, as it does in Assyrian and Babylonian masculine
forms. Tubal-Cain would therefore quite possibly receive a second
The remarkable thing is that the
Sumerian word for "iron" is just this barzillu,
or parzillu, thus accounting for a word that has long
puzzled Sumeriologists. The metal may simply have been named
after the one who first discovered how to work it!
We could therefore have here incidental
but striking testimony to the persistence of a tradition of a
series of events which carry us right back beyond the Flood to
Lamech's son, Tubal-Cain, the father of all that work in brass
and iron. His name, his art, his relation to one of Lamech's
wives, and his probable fate after wounding his father in defense
of his mother, are thus all reflected in this chain of traditional
lore which by its very artlessness bears all the more impressive
testimony to the truth of these early records of a period written
almost within the
75. Forbes, R. J., ref.72, p.90. Also
H. J. Rose, "The Cult of Vulcan at Rome," Journal
of the Royal Society, vol.23, 1933, p.46.
76. See T. Bulfinch, The Age of Fable, Heritage
Press, New York, 1942, pp.7-8.
lifetime of Adam himself.
Even Lamech's polygamy is indirectly confirmed by the fact that
Tubal Cain's other name identified him, not as the son of Lamech,
but as the son of one of his wives -- by naming which wife in
Putting all these things together,
one has a remarkable series of fragments of tradition in which
there is a continuity of name-forms, all related in meaning or
association and wrapped up in a trade of very ancient origin,
attached to a deity who had the strange experience of being ejected
from his home and rendered lame for taking his mother's part
(77) and who thereafter
lent his title, "Son of Zillah", to the Sumerian people
as their word for iron.
These same Sumerian people, in
spite of paintings in which they are portrayed in reconstructions
as having had bronzed faces, always referred to themselves as
black-headed ones, (78)
and are indeed spoken of by other people as black-headed, (79) while their relatives
in the Indus Valley were similarly termed black and noseless
(!) by the white Aryans who conquered them. The very word "Ham"
means "burned" or "dark", and while Ham's
descendants were certainly not all black (witness the "yellow"
Mongols, "red" Indians, and "brown" Malays),
it seems that the traditions of iron-working were kept particularly
within the circle of black people, so that Africa became the
instructor of Indo-Europeans in the art of metalworking. It seems
possible that they may have preserved some of this traditional
lore and classed themselves as Hamites, or "Al Hami",
and that in our word "alchemy" (hence, chemistry) we
have still some faint recollection of this tenuous thread of
unbroken history from Tubal-Cain down to modern times.
The brief picture we are given
of Nimrod in Genesis 10:9-12 suggests a warlike individual of
considerable energy who established the world's first kingdom
by military conquest, thus expanding his sovereignty from a base
in Babylonia in southern Mesopotamia by invading Assyria (the
Asshur of Gen. 10:11) to the north. I believe the Revised Standard
Version is more correct in its rendering of this verse. Nimrod
there built what appear to have been several provincial capitals,
of which Nineveh was one. Archaeology shows that Assyria in the
north was first settled by Semites, who entered it from the north
and west and then were conquered from
77. Kramer, S., From the Tablets
of Sumer, Falcon's Wing Press, New York 1956, p.60.
78. So in the Code of Hammurabi, Deimel's Transcription,
1930, R24, line 11 Sennacherib's Prism (col.1, line 15) refers
to the related Canaanites in the same way. Since his hair was
black, it is hardly likely he is referring merely to hair colour
79. Piggott, S., Prehistoric India, Pelican Books,
Hammondworth, England, 1950, p.261.
the south. In this way
one ruler united the northern Semites and the southern Hamites
(Sumerians), the amalgam resulting in the rise of an extraordinarily
complex civilization from which European civilization has unknowingly
drawn so much of its inspiration. The events outlined in these
four verses are factual history in miniature.
Beyond these observations, Genesis
10 will not be examined here in any detail since it is the subject
matter of another Doorway Paper ("A Study of the Names in
Genesis 10," Part II in Noah's Three Sons, vol.1).
But it may be said broadly that it presents in graphic form a
picture of the relationships between the ancient nations of the
world which has at no point been found to be in error. In fact,
the subgroups of nations which are presented as "families"
could have supplied a key to ethnologists if they had cared to
accept it, which would have allowed them to advance their science
far more rapidly than they were able to do -- though they have
reached virtually the same basic conclusions by alternative methods.
Generally speaking, the nations of the earth (verse 32) are considered
as three family groups. Anthropologists and ethnologists have
never improved upon this enumeration. The only modifications
proposed have been the raising to "racial status" of
certain comparatively small segments of the world's population
-- such as the Australian aborigines who seem to combine features
of both the negroid and the Caucasoid racial stocks.
While this may not appear a very
impressive testimony to Scripture, it should be borne in mind
that when this Table of Nations was written, it was not customary
to recognize people of totally strange nations as even "human".
Such people were less than human beings -- much as the Nazis
looked upon the Jewish people as less than human. Even today
primitive people refer to themselves, in terms of their own language
of course, as "men" or "people"; all others
are less than men. (80)
It was a bold step indeed -- and an inspired one -- which led
the writer to credit, not merely neighbours, but even enemies
to the same ancestors as themselves. This was surely a remarkable
Charter of Nations recognizing the brotherhood of man through
the fatherhood of Noah. It is even more amazing that the lines
of brotherhood are traced so accurately.
80. Thus the Naskapi Indians of Canada
call themselves Nenenot, meaning "real people". The
Eskimos call themselves Innuit, which has the same meaning. According
to Murdock, Hottentots term themselves Khoi-Khoi, "men of
men", i.e., "real men". The name Chukchee of the
Siberian people studied by Bogoras means "men". According
to Coon, the term Yahgan means men "par excellence"
-- rather ironical in that they are a tribe of Terra del Fuegians
whom Darwin felt were scarcely human at all! Andamanese Islanders
call themselves Onge, meaning similarly "men" or "people".
Figure 15. Mesopotamian sites showing flood deposits.
Genesis 6 to 9 we have the record of the Flood. If the Flood
was universal in a global sense, then we shall not find archaeological
evidence of it, but only geological. Many people believe this
is exactly what we have. For those of us who believe it was universal
only in the destruction of mankind and the animals who shared
his habitat, the catastrophe did not completely obliterate
the remains of prior civilization. In spite of the fact that
Genesis 11 indicates, and archaeology supports, the movement
of the first settlers in Mesopotamia after the Flood as having
been from the East so that they must previously have been elsewhere
than in the Mesopotamian Plains, many people believe that Noah's
Flood occurred in Mesopotamia. Accordingly, they are predisposed
to accept very readily the evidence presented by Childe and others
for an inundation of no mean size which apparently put a temporary
end to civilization in the earlier period of Ur's history. When
evidence of a similar nature was observed in other neighbouring
cities of the Plain, it was felt that archaeology had indeed
vindicated the biblical Flood.
However, it can be shown, unfortunately,
that these beds of apparently water-laid silt, though of considerable
depth, were exceedingly local and in no way disturbing the continuity
of life in neighbouring cities. Such inundations were therefore
more in the nature of "flash floods" which caused the
local people to abandon their homes and to desert the sites affected
for some considerable time. The diagrammatic chart of this so-called
Flood evidence (see Figure 15) (81) will show how local these disturbances really were
and how widely spaced in time. Not one Flood, but several floods
are therefore involved here.
81. From Andre Parrot, The Flood and Noah's
Ark, SCM Press, London, 1955, p.52.
Nevertheless, whatever its actual range, Noah's Flood
was of sufficient magnitude that mankind never forgot it. Flood
traditions are found all over the world, and in certain essentials
the concordance of their detail is very remarkable indeed. (82)
Occasionally it has been argued
that this worldwide distribution of traditions is clear evidence
of a worldwide flood. Unfortunately, if this were the case, it
would not be a vindication of the biblical story but a challenge
to it in one of its most important aspects. Worldwide traditions
‹ if each represented a recollection of the event as experienced
in that particular part of the world ‹ would imply survivors
all over the world; but Scripture says that eight human beings
alone survived the catastrophe.
The Flood story is factual in its
presentation, reading very much like a ship's log. There is no
doubt that only eight people came out of the ark and that from
them was the earth re-peopled. Genesis 10 assumes this as a fact
and leaves no question in the reader's mind that the writer intended
it to be understood that all the world's people find their origin
within the families of Noah's three sons.
And so we move back into antediluvian
times. Genesis 5 is concerned chiefly with a genealogy leading
from Adam to Noah. It has frequently been pointed out that the
cuneiform literature agrees in that this span of years occupies
the lifetime of only ten persons. The ages achieved by these
antediluvian patriarchs are far, far in excess of current age
expectancies. It has been proposed, therefore, either that we
are misinterpreting the figures or that the figures have been
artificially enlarged in an effort to give the same kind of heroic
dimensions to these characters as their counterparts in ancient
pagan literature, or that they are simply the work of some primitive
scribe who had no idea what large numbers really signified.
Archaeology has probably recovered
nothing tangible which sheds light on the civilization of pre-Flood
times. But post-Flood cuneiform tablets in great numbers have
been found which often confirm the biblical details of this period.
Among these are several king lists giving us the names and lengths
of reign of those who ruled from "Adam" to "Noah".
The names do not precisely coincide
with those listed in Genesis 5, but the number of generations
seems to be similar. In some lists there are only eight kings,
in others ten, to be compared with the ten antediluvial patriarchs
of Genesis. Various attempts have been made to demonstrate essential
identity of most of the
82. See "Flood Traditions of the World,"
Part II in The
Flood: Local or Global?, vol.9 of The Doorway Papers Series,
Zondervan Publication Company.
individuals in these
cuneiform king lists, and from other tablets we gather some details
of the lives of certain of them which strongly encourage the
view that they are indeed the same people even when their names
look different. One major problem has been the time spans involved,
many of them having reputedly ruled for fifty to sixty thousand
years according to current translations of these texts. One text
shows the ten of them to have ruled a total of 345,000 years,
another 432,000 years. Some suggestions have been made about
these figures; for example, that they represent dynasties rather
than individual reigns, but cultural remains in the area for
such vast periods of time are lacking.
* * * *
An alternative is to re-interpret the value
of the unit of measurement upon which these enormous spans of time are
based. This unit is the Saros, which has been taken to signify a period
of 3,600 years. But the Saros has a shorter value, (83)
which if applied to the same figures reduces them to something rather
closer to the figures given in Geneses 5. This value is 18 years, 11 days,
and 8 hours. On the basis of the lesser value -- and I know of no inherent
reason why it should not have been taken into consideration -- the cuneiform
records approach much more nearly to the biblical record. The lower figure
provides us with a remarkably close total period from Adam to Noah. It
is slightly longer than the period as calculated on the basis of the Hebrew
text, and very nearly the same as the figures given in the Septuagint
texts (Alexandrian and Vatican) and in the works of Josephus. This general
order of agreement is a remarkable witness to the essential consistency
of ancient tradition on the subject. The reasons for preferring the figures
given in the biblical text to those given in the Septuagint versions mentioned
is considered in some detail in the Doorway Paper entitled "Longevity
in Antiquity and Its Bearing on Chronology" (Part
I in The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, vol.5 in The
Doorway Papers Series).
83. Saros: On this question, see F.
A. Jones, The Dates of Genesis, Kingsgate Press, London,
1909, p.50. Also some valuable comments by Franke Parker, Chronology,
Henry and Parker, Oxford, 1858, especially p.790. Also an extraordinary
work entitled Palmoni, by an anonymous (Jewish?) author
who discusses the long and short values of the Saros and favours
the short value of eighteen years and ten or eleven days. The
full title of this volume of 680 pages is Palmoni: An
Essay on the Chronological and Numerical System in Use Among
the Jews, Longmans, Brown, Green, and Longmans, London, 1851,
now find ourselves almost within sight of the Garden of Eden
without having discovered any point in this retracing of biblical
history at which to say with any confidence, "Beyond this,
we are in the realm of mythology." So far nothing has the
air of mythology. And if anything, chapter 4 of Genesis is even
We have already dealt in part with
some of the characters in this chapter: Lamech, Zillah, and Tubal-Cain.
We have seen that even the name of Lamech's second wife seems
to have been preserved for us in the ancient word for iron, parzillu.
In due time, it is quite possible that we shall recognize Jabal,
the first cattleman and tent-dweller, and Jubal, the father of
music. In fact, I would venture to predict that God did not preserve
these names (the chapter is full of them) through all these centuries
of history without at the same time preserving somewhere -- yet
to be discovered -- evidence of their existence as real persons.
It is a "rule" in scientific research that one sees
largely what one is looking for and is very apt to miss much
that is significant simply because the mind is not attending
carefully. It is sometimes said that Nature does not provide
us with data but capta. There are very few "givens"
-- or perhaps one should say, everything is given, but
the mind takes note only of selected groups of factors out of
the whole. These "takens" (or capta) are what we blithely
term "data". In a very similar way, the scholar is
provided with hundreds of thousands of bits and pieces of information
from existing cuneiform tablets and inscriptions and from a vast
untapped accumulation of traditional lore among primitive and
not-so-primitive people. Within this wealth of material there
may very well be the supportive evidence which would bear testimony
to the reality of these other ancient worthies, if we were only
perceptive enough to find them or believing enough to make the
search. Unfortunately those best qualified for this kind of research
are by their faith, as a rule, least likely even to look for
the evidence or recognize it for what it is if they should stumble
upon it by accident.
Moreover, it sometimes has happened
that even when this kind of evidence has appeared, it has not
been given the recognition it should have because, of all people,
scholars tend to be most sensitive to the good opinion of their
colleagues and are afraid of the ridicule which sometimes attends
discoveries strongly confirming some aspect of Scripture. This
may account, I think, for the fact that evidence from archaeology
has appeared in support of the statement made in Genesis 4:17
that Cain built a city, by implication the first one to be built,
and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch,
and yet this evidence has scarcely received any notice. And this,
in spite of the fact that it carries us so far back in the biblical
record that we are only one generation from the first human pair.
The evidence to which I refer is indirect in one sense,
yet remarkable nonetheless. In the nature of the case, wherever
a man and his family settled at the beginning, that territory
would tend to become named after him. Consequently a single name
might apply either to a country or to an individual. To distinguish
in cuneiform literature whether the name referred to the individual
or to the place, it became customary to add either before or
after the word an identifying sign, the sign for man or place.
The sign for man was written before the name; the sign for place
was added after. The same procedure was followed with respect
to cities which, naturally enough (and as we shall see in Genesis),
were often named after some person of distinction. Thus the name
"Cush" in Scripture is both the name of an individual
and the name of at least one area of land -- probably of several
areas. In Hebrew there is no device for distinguishing which
is intended, but in cuneiform there is.
There is, therefore, an almost
universal custom of putting the cuneiform sign , (-ki)
after the name of a city. I say "almost" because
there is one notable exception. Whenever the name "Uruk"
is mentioned, the determinative or identifying sign -ki
was sometimes omitted. (84) Why is this? Well, the city Uruk is also written
in the cuneiform literature as Unuk and this form is identified
without question with the name Enoch. According to Scripture,
therefore, this city Unuk or Uruk was the first to be built and
it follows that it would not, at the very beginning, be thought
of as a "city", because to be so distinguished there
would have to have existed, prior to it, other similar congregations
of buildings in order to constitute it one of a class. The concept
"city" would arise after it was built, not at the very
moment it was built. And being the very first one in existence,
it would become, quite naturally, the City, identified uniquely:
indeed it might well be referred to -- as London is by Londoners
-- as The City. At any rate, the exceptional circumstance
which led to the habit of writing this name without the determinative
for city is most logically accounted for if we assume it was
indeed the first one ever.
Now obviously the City which Cain
built and named after his son Enoch must have been destroyed
by the Flood, so that the physical entity itself has probably
disappeared. As so often happens in history, the City was re-founded
elsewhere, i.e., in Mesopotamia, receiving once more its original
name. Perhaps if these re-builders
84. Uruk: on this point, see John Urquhart,
"The Bearing of Recent Oriental Discoveries on Old Testament
History," Transactions of the Victorian Institute, vol.38,
1906, p.48; and W. St. Chad Boscawen, The Bible and the Monuments,
Evre and Spottswoode, London, 1896, p.94.
had followed our pattern, they
would have referred to it as "New Uruk"! But though the original
city was lost sight of, the special significance of the name was not,
for in due time the very word "Unuk" ceased to be a name only
and became also a word meaning "city". In later cuneiform, this
same word became "Ereck" and it survives to this day as "Warka".
Subsequently the word appeared in Asia Minor, not as Wark-- but as Perg-,
where it is to be seen in the name "Pergamos", for example.
This form of the word for "city" travelled up into Europe with
some variations, becoming in due time -burg, -burgh, and -borough.
It is also interesting to note that in Greek the word took the form purgos
a "tower" -- a fact of added significance in the light of Genesis
11:4, which equates the building of a city with the building of a tower.
Nor does the association end here, for the word "tower" came
through into other Indo-European languages in the form of "tour"
and its cognate in English, "town."
In short, a simple statement is
made in Genesis 4 to the effect that Cain built the first city
and named it after his son, Enoch. History shows an unbroken
line of evidence associating the idea of a city with this word
"Enoch". This is a remarkable confirmation, after so
many thousands of years of history, of the biblical statement
set forth with such artless simplicity.
There is one further line of inquiry
which may perhaps be allowed here, though -- like a number of
other inclusions -- it is not strictly archaeological. A remarkable
number of traditions associate the building of some particular
city of prominence with two brothers, one of whom invariably
is killed by the other -- usually out of envy. This, of course,
is true of the building of Rome, where Romulus and Remus are
the leading characters. Lenormant has a considerable section
of his famous study, The Beginnings of History, (85) devoted to traditions
which he believes are relevant. His attitude toward Scripture
is not altogether satisfying, because he holds the view that
the story of Cain and Abel and the subsequent building of the
first city by the former are not so much original records but
shared myths purified to be consonant with the spirit of the
rest of Scripture. However, his remarks are interesting, for
he shows how widespread the association was in ancient times.
Moreover, Lenormant believes that from some basic truth underlying
these traditions originated the practice in later years of performing
a human sacrifice when founding any city or prominent building.
He acknowledges at the same
85. Lenorrnant, F., The Beginnings
of History, Scribner's, New York., 1891, pp.149 ff.
time that the record
of Genesis is quite unlike the form taken by parallel traditions,
in that the leading characters, including Cain's immediate descendants
(Tubal, Lamech, etc.), are presented as ordinary men with
not the slightest evidence of any inclination to deify them.
Although he does not admit it, this distinction would surely
greatly strengthen the claim of those who believe in Scripture
as the inspired Word of God that these writers were overruled,
not only in what they said, but how they presented it. Archaeology
has on a number of occasions borne witness to this practice of
human sacrifice when laying the foundations of ancient buildings
The light of archaeology is not quite
exhausted yet. The recovery of the most ancient of languages
in history ‹ Assyrian, Babylonian, and finally Sumerian --
has brought to our attention one further interesting piece of
evidence that takes us as far as Abel. It turns out -- as perhaps
might have been expected if all existing languages once began
from a common root -- that certain words fundamental to society
itself are shared by Semites, Hamites (in the biblical sense),
and Indo-Europeans or Japhethites. Such words as denote family
relationships, personal pronouns, and smaller numbers fall in
this category. The word for "son" is an interesting
example. But in order to explore this meaningfully, it is necessary
first to set forth very briefly the kind of phonetic changes
commonly found when words of one language group are shared by
another language group.
The letters b, f, m, p, ph,
v, and sometimes w are interchangeable: thus mit
in German is with in English; fire in English
is pur in Greek; marmo in Italian is marble in
English; amelu (meaning "a person") in Assyrian
is awilum in Babylonian; and so on.
In a similar way l, n, and
r are interchangeable: thus, for example, castrum
in Latin becomes castle in English. An excellent example
of all three letters being interchangeable appears in the words
harrister, baluster, and bannister. The
list could be extended indefinitely.
Now the word for son in
French is fils. In Latin this appears as puer ‹
the r reverting to an l sound in the feminine form
puella. In Hebrew, the terminal consonants are replaced
by h and n respectively, as in Benjamin. In Aramaic,
ben appears as bar, as in Bar-abbas. Going back beyond
Aramaic to the Assyrian, we come to the form pilu. It
appears in the familiar name Tiglath-pil-eser. In Babylonian,
this is found as aplu, and when we go further back still
to the Sumerian, the form is abel or apil, and
sometimes as ibila.
Although this kind of philology involves risks and
has been carried to absurd extremes, there is no doubt that all
these forms are actually related. As we have already noted in
another connection, the word parzillu is almost certainly
a construct which means "the son of Zillah". Thus very,
very early in history the form par for "son"
and the form abil are both in use ‹ indeed, they are
really alternative methods of pronouncing the terminal consonants
which signify the word son. This essential word has never been
lost sight of and is still with us today, though in English it
appears as an adjective, filial. The significant fact
in all this is that the child whom Adam and Eve must have looked
upon as really their son received the name "Abel".
In other words, this name by which they called the child became
thereafter a generic word standing for "sonship", just
as the name of the first city became a generic word for cities
thereafter. There are reasons why I believe Cain was never really
thought of by Adam and Eve in this way, but they are not properly
part of this paper. It was not Cain's name, but Abel's which
has been preserved throughout history as a prototype for all
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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This seems, at the moment, as far
as we can go. It is true that cuneiform tablets have provided
us with parallels to the story of Eden. But none of them are
truly parallel, for they all are characterized by fantasy, where
the gods quarrel with one another over newly created man, and
even man himself appears as something more than man. Scripture
alone presents us with a picture of two truly human people behaving
exactly as we might behave ourselves ‹ the only exceptional
circumstance really being the part played by the serpent. Perhaps
one day we shall understand this, too. To those who have known
the Lord personally, the rest of the story is not really exceptional.
Certainly, from the very first there is every indication that
we are intended to take the narrative in a very literal sense;
as Adam and Eve pass out of this Garden of God, they assume the
dimensions of ordinary people, and the events of their lives
lead naturally and without any evident break into the lives of
their immediate descendants ‹ and history is in the making.