Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Paul and the Book of Jubilees

This isn't as much of a post as a quick note to myself and solicitation to others who might know more about the subject.

In the midst of reading a blog post and its comments which are tangentially related to my Adam post, I went off searching for an online version of The Book of Jubilees so that I could understand one of the commenter's comments.

After reading just a little bit of it, I thought to myself,"Gosh...this seems awfully familiar to me." Besides the fact that it is simply rehashing parts of Genesis and Exodus into a single coherent narrative, I realized that some of the things that I had been taught about Genesis and Moses came from The Book of Jubilees. For instance, earlier in my Christian college days, I was taught that Moses wrote all 5 books of the Pentateuch, receiving Genesis as a divine revelation, just as it is depicted in Jubilees.

I had also heard frequently that Cain's wife was his sister, and that all of Adam and Eve's children married each other. That's also from Jubilees:
And Cain took Awan his sister to be his wife and she bare him Enoch at the close of the fourth jubilee. [190-196 A.M.] And in the first year of the first week of the fifth jubilee, [197 A.M.] houses were built on the earth, and Cain built a city, and called its name after the name of
10, 11 his son Enoch. And Adam knew Eve his wife and she bare yet nine sons. And in the fifth week of the fifth jubilee [225-31 A.M.] Seth took
Azura his sister to be his wife, and in the fourth (year of the sixth
12,13 week) [235 A.M.] she bare him Enos. He began to call on the name of the Lord on the earth. And in the seventh jubilee in the third week [309-15 A.M.] Enos took Noam his sister to be his wife, and she bare him a son
14 in the third year of the fifth week, and he called his name
Kenan. And at the close of the eighth jubilee [325, 386-3992 A.M.] Kenan took Mualeleth his sister to be his wife, and she bare him a son in the ninth jubilee,

But that's not all...while reading chapter 3 of Jubilees, I realized that much of what Paul says about Adam and Eve and the theological implications of their Fall comes from Jubilees:
It is not
5 good that the man should be alone: let us make a
helpmeet for him.' And the Lord our God caused a deep sleep to fall upon him, and he slept, and He took for the woman one rib from amongst
6 his ribs, and this rib was the origin of the woman from amongst his ribs, and He built up the flesh in its stead, and built the woman. And He
awaked Adam out of his sleep and on awaking he rose on the sixth day, and He brought her to him, and he knew her, and said unto her: 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called
7 [my] wife; because she was taken from her husband.' Therefore shall man and wife be one and therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they shall be
8 one flesh. In the first week was Adam created, and the rib -his wife: in the second week He showed her unto him: and for this reason the commandment was given to keep in their defilement,
9 for a male seven days, and for a female twice seven days. And after Adam had completed forty days in the land where he had been created, we brought him into the garden of Eden to till and keep it, but his wife they brought in on the eightieth day, and after this she entered into the garden
10 of Eden. And for this reason the commandment is written on the heavenly tablets in regard to her that gives birth: 'if she bears a male, she shall remain in her uncleanness seven days according to the first week of days, and thirty and three days shall she remain in the blood of her purifying, and she shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor enter into the sanctuary, until she accomplishes these
11 days which (are enjoined) in the case of a male child. But in the case of a female child she shall remain in her uncleanness two weeks of days, according to the first two weeks, and sixty-six days
12 in the blood of her purification, and they will be in all eighty days.' And when she had completed these eighty days we brought her into the garden of Eden, for it is holier than all the earth besides and
13 every tree that is planted in it is holy.

This passage reinforces the idea that Eve is somehow less than Adam in the way that it emphasizes that Eve is made from part of Adam and is "his" wife. It also, interestingly, ties in the idea of a "period of defilement" for both male and female, thought at this point in the story both Adam and Eve are supposed to be innocent and perfect.

Later, when Eve eats the forbidden fruit, it is cast in a more deliberate, accusatory tone. In this version Eve eats the fruit and has enough time and forethought to clothe herself with fig leaves and then go out and find Adam in order to entice him to eat the fruit also.
And the woman saw the tree that it was agreeable and pleasant to the eye, and that its fruit
21 was good for food, and she took thereof and eat.
And when she had first covered her shame with figleaves, she gave thereof to Adam and he eat, and his eyes were opened, and he saw that he was
22 naked.
And he took figleaves and sewed (them) together, and made an apron for himself, and23, 24 covered his shame
The version in Genesis is more generous. In that version, Adam and Eve are together and both of their eyes are opened at the same time. They are co-conspirators, not predator and victim.
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
The Book of Jubilees is usually dated somewhere around the 2nd century BCE, quite some time before Paul and his use of Adam and Eve as theological sources. By the time it's been around for a couple of hundred years, it no doubt has authority for Paul and was something he would have been familiar with. It isn't much of a stretch to see how he would/could incorporate the underlying attitudes about Adam and Eve into his epistles and teachings.

Which makes for an interesting conundrum. What do we do with Paul's Creation Theology if it is based almost entirely on the slant of a particular ancient text which is not considered authoritative in either the Catholic, or Protestant tradition?

I do have to revise some of what I wrote yesterday. I wasn't thinking outside of the Old and New Testaments, when I said that Adam was absent. Because, although he is completely absent in what the constitutes the authoritative, Christian, Old Testament canon, that doesn't mean he was absent from the general thought-life of 1st century Judaism.

So...perhaps it isn't that Paul drags up a long-lost relative, creating a relatively novel theology. Maybe, instead, he is simply incorporating what he has been taught about Adam and Eve through texts and traditions outside of what we think of as authoritative Scripture.


JS Allen said...

Yeah, I thought the same thing regarding your post about Adam. Another possibility to consider is the Talmud, which is more analogous to Paul's epistles, and contains a lot of theological reference to Adam. It supposedly records material that had been orally transmitted for centuries, so it is theoretically *possible* that some of the Talmudic commentary on Adam was current among the Rabbinical culture of Paul's time. I'm not sure how to verify that theory, though.

In any case, Paul was a "Pharisee of Pharisees", and was an expert on Jewish theology, so he would've known what was current. Outside of his writings, and the Talmud, we don't have a lot of clues about the finer theological points people were drawing.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think you will find the Jewish Encyclopedia entry fascinating.

There is speculation that it was an early Essene text, based on earlier traditions as JS Allen suggests.

I am coming to prefer my Scriptures messy as I age - perhaps in reaction to the false neatness of fundamentalists, especially of the textus receptus variety. Neat and tidy stories are likely to be made up and edited into smoothness. Contradictions, unexplained bits, and multiple interpretations seem more likely to be original and reach deep into the past.

I do find that the bits I think might be left out as messing up a nice theory do have a way of popping back up when looking at a different question, though.

terri said...

I haven't worried too much about what The Talmud says in relation to certain points of Christian theology...mainly because they were written between 200-500 AD/CE.

Much later than Jubilees and the New Testament. While I am sure many of the ideas in The Talmud were around in the first century, a couple of hundred years can accumulate new slants and views.

Anyway....that's why I never really worried too much about whether or not Christian theology had correspondence with things within the Talmud.

Jubilees is interesting because it comes before the New Testament by over 200 years, so the ideas and themes in it have had time to stew for a while before Paul comes around.