According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Social Group Theory and the Question of "Whom Did Cain Marry?"


Cain flying before Jehovah's Curse, by Fernand Cormon


"An individual's self-concept derives from perceived membership in a relevant social group"


"Microcultures are specialised subgroups, marked by their own languages, ethos and rule
expectations... A microculture depends on the smallest units of organisation – dyads, groups, or local communities – as opposed to the broader subcultures of race or class, and the wider national/global culture, compared to which they tend also to be more short-lived, as well as voluntarily chosen."
-Microcultures, Wikipedia


Group Identity Tells Us Who We Are

How does a Christian evolutionist read Genesis 1-2 when coming to the story of Adam and Eve's children and who they married? Quite naturally there would be other choices beyond the standard non-evolutionary answer that Adam and Eve's sons only married their sisters based upon the more traditional literalistic reading of the Bible.

However, let us suppose there might be another way to read the story of Genesis....

Let us suppose that the oral legends of the Bible were less concerned with the creation stories of a humanity living beyond the "Gardens of Eden" and more concerned with their own corner of the world. A corner they deemed to be paradise at once in league-and-fellowship with the very God of the universe.

That is, Israel's group identity was solely focused on its own stories, histories, and legacies and not on another nation's stories, histories, or legacies. Consequently, the story of Adam and Eve based upon an early ancient reading of the Israelites were either of very real people, tribe, or clan. Or, of a legendary people (as we have noted here before), telling of Israel's origins as a "God-fearing" race.

Based upon "group identity" a culture more readily identifies with its own legends and stories rather than with another cultural heritage's legends and stories. Without discounting the historicity of Adam and Eve, the ancient Israelites quite naturally concentrated their attention to their own self-affirming perception as a "God-fearing" nation with its own trials of faith and failure.

Telling One-Sided Stories

Israel's p-e-r-c-e-p-t-i-o-n of the world was limited to their personal investments into their traditions and history. Though not denying there were other ancient human cultures and traditions beyond that of their own, those "foreign" cultures and traditions were of less value to Israel's own stories as God's chosen people. A God whom they knew as Yahweh rather than as a God with an Assyrian, Sumerian, or Akkadian name from other more ancient tribes and nation-states.

Why is their no mention of other men and women beyond the Garden of Eden than only that of Adam and Eve? Because it was the perception by the tribes of Israel that those foreign elements of humanity's stories were less central to their own Jewish stories of faith and failure.

That is, the Israelite storyteller knew other men and women in Genesis existed outside of Eden, but this social situation did not matter to him or her. Or factor into his/her account of Israel's spiritual heritage. He/She was more concerned with their own "Adam and Eve" stories and not those creation stories beyond their known group. As such, foreign lands and people were not mentioned. And only mentioned where necessary to complete their familiar story lines.

Narrative (Sociological) Context is Important

And so, with this "wider reading" of the Genesis account through the lenses of "group identity" we find a Genesis story that makes more sense. The question is not necessarily one of either evolution or "special" creation but one of literary and sociological context.

A context of "group identity" and social perception by an ancient race of people creating their own social history in relation to the world of men rather than accepting the more pagan accounts of the nation-states around them that historically preceded their own national formation.

Cain Becomes an Outcast to his Group

Asked again, "Who did Cain marry?" He married another women perhaps from his own region but more likely from beyond "mom-and-dad's" homelands to an unfamiliar homeland of another people either nearby or more distant.

In other words, Cain was alone. Without family or tribe to protect him in an ancient world more skeptical to the foreigner and alien invader. Foreigner's who seemed "less human" in the eyes of the homeland tribe and usually considered threatening or harmful.

Accordingly, the ancient world was reduced to small regional territories of tribes and clans that grew to either trust or distrust one another. Trade and marriage helped to increase communication. And with communication came either greed and war or, fidelity and enlarged community. Quite naturally Cain was at risk as an unknown outcast from an unknown land. A "foreign" land to those he would meet beyond his homelands of Eden.

Our Own Stories

As a religious people bound within our own familiar fellowships and churches we each have our favored stories and perceptions of the Bible, of God, of ourselves, and of others. It is the hope here at Relevancy22 that we widen our stories a bit more to include a larger grouping of religious and spiritual intimates, traditions, heritages, and ideologies.

To remain properly skeptical - but also properly open - to differing accounts of the Bible while holding each nuance in balance with the other until at such a time we can we let all go in God's wisdom, grace, and benevolence.

We live in a very large, vastly complex, and fast-paced world, whose global societies will stretch our Christian identities with other Christian identities and "invading" pluralistic religions. It is important to know our own stories, how-and-where they can flex, and how God's story through us can become mankind's larger story of grace and salvation.

Cain was an outcast from his former society and yet, in God's grace, Cain was preserved in the land of Nod east of Eden. He lived as a marked outcast whose personal story to his wives and children and all whom he met was one of great sin before God. Of envy and murder. But also of God's grace in saving his soul from a death that he did not spare his brother from. And yet God spared him only to live in a foreign land never to return home.

From Cain's descendants came great accomplishments of cities, and lands, and flocks. But also perhaps great pride from unrepentant sin. Pride that does not call on the name of the Lord but on one's own name and the pride of one's ancestors. Of a past marked not by repentance but perhaps of a hard-heart before the Lord as declared by Lamech in avenging his injured pride. Where the musical lyre and pipe were played perhaps to the soulful tune of regret and judgment. Or to the joviality of life in wealth, and deeds, and the lusts of man.

The rightful fear in the story of Cain is one of not repenting from sin and wounded pride. To be come content living as an outcast before the Lord rather than falling on one's knees to weep for forgiveness from a Father God whose grace is sufficient in Christ Jesus our Savior and Redeemer. To be part of the wider family of Abraham. A family of faithful followers obedient to their Lord in all of life however hard or difficult it may be. To rejoice with our brothers and sisters and not be envious. And to lay down one's life for the other if necessary even as Jesus did for us.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
October 29, 2014


Additional References

Special Creation theories arguing against Pre-Adamite Civilizations
Halfway House theories arguing for cosmic and geographical but not biological creation
Wikipedia - Collective Identity
Wikipedia - Microcultures
Wikipedia - Social Group Theory
Wikipedia - Social Identity


The Genesis Story of Cain and Abel

Genesis 4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Cain and Abel

4 Now the man [a]had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to [b]Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a [c]manchild with the help of the Lord.” 2 Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 So it came about [d]in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, [e]will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain [f]told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. 11 Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord [g]appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.

16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and [h]settled in the land of [i]Nod, east of Eden.

17 Cain [j]had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son. 18 Now to Enoch was born Irad, and Irad [k]became the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael [l]became the father of Methushael, and Methushael [m]became the father of Lamech. 19 Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

23 Lamech said to his wives,

“Adah and Zillah,
Listen to my voice,
You wives of Lamech,
Give heed to my speech,
For I [n]have killed a man for wounding me;
And a boy for striking me;
24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”

25 Adam [o]had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him [p]Seth, for, she said, “God [q]has appointed me another [r]offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call [s]upon the name of the Lord.

Footnotes

Genesis 4:1 Lit knew
Genesis 4:1 I.e. gotten one
Genesis 4:1 Or man, the Lord
Genesis 4:3 Lit at the end of days
Genesis 4:7 Or surely you will be accepted
Genesis 4:8 Lit said to
Genesis 4:15 Or set a mark on
Genesis 4:16 Lit dwelt
Genesis 4:16 I.e. wandering
Genesis 4:17 Lit knew
Genesis 4:18 Lit begot
Genesis 4:18 Lit begot
Genesis 4:18 Lit begot
Genesis 4:23 Or kill
Genesis 4:25 Lit knew
Genesis 4:25 Heb Sheth
Genesis 4:25 Heb shath
Genesis 4:25 Lit seed
Genesis 4:26 Or by



The sacrifices of Abel, the younger, and Cain, the older
Cain murders his brother Abel




Who Was the Wife of Cain?
http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/hebrew-bible/who-was-the-wife-of-cain/


A closer look at one of the most enigmatic women in Genesis

Mary Joan Winn Leith explores the identity of the wife of Cain.While there are many examples of strong and inspiring men and women in Genesis, the book is also packed with stories of dysfunctional families, which is evidenced from the very beginning with the first family—Adam, Eve and their two children, Cain and Abel. In no short amount of time—just 16 verses after announcing the birth of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4—Cain has murdered his younger brother and is consequently exiled from the land. In theory, this would have dropped the world’s population from four down to three. The narrative continues in Genesis 4 with Cain settling in the land of Nod and having children with his wife. Who did Cain marry? Where did she come from? Are there other people outside of Eden? In the November/December 2013 issue of BAR, Mary Joan Winn Leith addresses these questions and explores the identity of the wife of Cain in “Who Did Cain Marry?”

Given that the wife of Cain is only mentioned once in the Old Testament, she would not be counted among the famous women in Genesis. Nevertheless, her identity is still worth investigating. Who did Cain marry? Mary Joan Winn Leith first explores the traditional Jewish and Christian answers that contend that the wife of Cain was another daughter of Adam and Eve. According to this reasoning, Cain would have married his sister—one of Abel’s twin sisters no less, according to the Genesis Rabbah.

A different answer emerges when Leith turns from the traditional responses about the wife of Cain and delves into modern scholarship. Looking at recent work done by sociologists and anthropologists, she notes that when forming a group identity, we tend to define ourselves by how we differ from other groups. In the ancient Near East, sometimes those outside of a particular group or society were considered less “human” by those inside of the group.

An important factor that contributes to this mindset is geography. People in the ancient Near East typically stayed close to home, which affected their perception of the world. Surely they knew that other groups of people—potential enemies or allies—existed far away, but if they never came into contact with these groups, what did they matter?

Mary Joan Winn Leith suggests that while the Israelite storyteller knew that other men and women in Genesis existed outside of Eden, they did not matter to him or factor into his account. He was concerned with Adam and Eve and their progeny—not those outside of this group.

Who did Cain marry? There are many answers. For Leith’s explanation of the identity of the wife of Cain—one of the often-overlooked women in Genesis—see her full column.


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