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On Oral Tradition and the reliability of the formation of the Pentateuch
By: Jay Antonic

 

 
During the course of a Liberal Arts education at a Major University, one finds evident a systematic approach to debunking the Bible. The Agenda is present in many requisite courses: Philosophy, Literature, Politics, English, French, Mass Communications, Zoology. It seems that in the name of "higher thinking" we are being taught that the highest thoughts were the thoughts of men and not the thoughts of an Almighty Omniscient, and yet personal, God.

Although the Bible, in the least being the most masterful literary work ever assembled, one of my own comparative literature professors established a firm and vocal agenda to unfound the historicity, the authenticity, and the reliablility of the Bible in favor of other ancient texts of spurious origin. For example, the Epic of Gilgamesh was viewed as the authoritative and original literary record of the Noachic flood and that, because of the differences in the two texts and the earlier date, the Gilgamesh record was more probably accurate. Therefore the Genesis account was simply a forgery or a copy of an oral tradition stemming from this epic legend. From this she built an platform to completely disassemble Biblical Truth and all Judeo-Christian Theology.

Many Bible Scholars, archeologists, and cultural anthropologists alike have found records of flood stories in virtually every stable and permeated ancient culture. Chinese Symbols, Aborignal Myth, Inuit Tradition, Sumerian Legend, the Bible, and indeed modern geology all provide overwhelming evidence of the flood and the rescue of a remnant of people in a boat. The question is, "How did the story get into the book of Genesis?".

Much of human history that we know of was transferred orally* . Nevertheless, many people cite oral history as a poor way to translate information and therefore view the Genesis account as allegorical, and ancient prose rather than an authoritative and inspired account of the beginnings of civilization. Although Archeology repeatedly attests to the authenticity of the Bible's places, names, and times, many so-called scholars still scoff at the Bible as a reliable Historical resource.

This short discourse is really only aimed at revealing one small bit of knowledge I recently obtained in my research regarding the oral traditions of the Bible. I too, felt that if stories were passed down through the generations there could be room for human error and interpolation or omission of key details and facts. In researching the book of Genesis from the aspect of the Origins of Life I have found its record to be scientifically and Historically impenetrable. However, I have been studying Genesis from an Anthropological perspective of late and have made the following interesting discoveries that have settled my questions about Oral Transmission:

In reviewing the records of the ages of the descendants of Adam to Abram (Abraham) I collated the Genological Lifespan Table below (the year 0 is the first year of Humanity in Creation- all dates reckoned forward from creation based on the Genesis Account):

Adam (0-930)
Seth (130-1042)
Enos (235-1140)
Cainan (325-1235)
Mahaleel (395-1290)
Jared (460-1422)
Enoch (622-987)
Methuseleh (687-1656)
Lamech (874-1651)
Noah (1056-2006)
Shem (1556-2158)
Arphaxad (1658-2096)
Salah (1693-2126)
Eber (1723-2187)
Peleg (1757-1996)
Reu (1787-2026)
Serug (1819-2049)
Nahor(1849-1997)
Terah (1878-2083)
Abram (1948-2123)

Notice the following facts:

  1. Adam walked with God in the Garden and knew Him.
  2. Adam was contemporary with Methuselah for 243 years
  3. Adam was contemporary with Noah's Father Lamech
  4. Noah was contemporary with Methusaleh for 600 years
  5. The Flood Occured just after Methusaleh and Lamech died Naturally
  6. Methuselah's Father, Enoch, was raptured as he "walked with God"
  7. In the year 1656 the Flood Covered the Earth, Noah became Patriarch
  8. In the Days of Peleg (1757-1996), the Earth was divided (continental drift)
  9. Abraham was contemporary with Noah for 58 years
  10. Abram left Ur with his Father Terah after Noah's Death, and upon the death of his brother

From an oral history standpoint:

  1. God Spoke to Adam and taught him directly.
  2. Adam easily could have passed his own history and personal account on to 8 subsequent generations unto Lamech's.
  3. Noah was taught by God directly, as well as by Methusaleh (his grandfather ) for 600 years, and Lamech (his father) for 595 years.
  4. No Godly descendant of Adam died in the flood for they had all died naturally by then
  5. Noah was the new and sole carrier of the Creation Story.
  6. Noah lived until the time of Abram and was a source of History and Godly experience
  7. God spoke directly to Abraham

So, the account of the Creation, by the time of Abram has passed merely through four contemporary patriarchs (Adam, Methusaleh, Noah, Abram) with 961 combined overlapping contemporaneous years for the previous patriarch to impart the information to the subsequent generations.

By contrast, I can relate family stories from my own anscestors back to the accounts of my Great Grandparents as I was contemporary with them. My children have learned stories from me of their great-grandparents that are accurately retold as I was contemporary with them for 15 years. If this is simple enough, how much more can we trust the accounts of Genesis as accurate and authoritative records of human pre-history?

It makes sense that many post-diluvian cultures would have records of the flood. Noah lived for 350 years after the flood. Until Nimrod, humanity had one language (that given by God to Adam) and the accounts of the flood existed in one language from one people. When God scattered the tongues of the inhabitants of Babel, they seperated from central Mesopotamia and diasporated througout the globe forming tribes according to their languages. This is why many ancient civilization and surviving stone-age cultures retell ancient legends of a worldwide flood and of 8 souls being saved in a boat. These cultures preserved the information, but without the direct connection to the original source (Noah) and his language (Hebrew).

Noah's name is recorded in the Bible in Hebrew. The descendants of Shem were the anscestors of Abram (Abraham) out of whom came the 12 tribes of Israel. From the priestly tribe of Levi came Moses who is credited with writing the Pentateuch. The books were written in Ancient Hebrew. It seems evident that the culture that historically worshipped the same God of the Creation account, would retain the orginal language, account, and most accurate History of the experiences of Adam, Noah, and Abraham.

Following the descendant lines of Ham, and Japheth lead to other cultures who did not all follow the same God that Noah served and knew. Many became pantheists, and idolaters, creating new myths that were foreign to Noah's teaching. Thereby, these other cultures may have preserved fragments of the ancient stories and records, but they are infused with myth and lore and other histories as they are not specifically retold as eye-witness accounts of Ante-Diluvian history. Noah and his sons and daughters were the only sources of this information. They simply did not retain enough familial, linguistic, or religious ties to the original testimony for their records to be trustworthy and accurate.

Therefore, in reviewing ancient sources, although some writings may have pre-existed the Pentateuch, they are not authoritative as they rely on accounts that were not eye-witnessed, and they have been passed through and filtered by cultures that both abandoned knowledge of their history and began to record in languages different from the original language spoken by man.

For example: Surely, if my sons were to speak to their great-great grandmother in English, there would be very little that could be discussed to any great extent as she spoke Slavic languages almost exclusively. If they tried to extract information about her childhood, without pictures, she would probably have to draw symbols and use gestures to try and be understood. Imagine then, the difficulty in non-semitic (descendents of Shem) cultures trying to retain their history and record. This problem is solved for Bible Scholars as we know that Noah was contemporary with Abram and that Abram is the Father of the Hebrews. Their language stayed the same, they served the same God, they kept the same culture, and they kept the same history.

Plainly, the Pentateuch can be trusted as not only inspired, but historically accurate as it passes certain anthropological tests of oral tradition.

May this information bless your reading of the Bible as you grow in the discipleship of His Word.



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On Oral Tradition and the reliability of the formation of the Pentateuch
By: Jay Antonic
   
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