My wife Rose and I were discussing her research concerning the Christian concept of marriage as between one man and one women. Most Christians try to support their opinion by citing Christ’s reference to Adam and Eve becoming “one flesh” (Matt 19:5). Recalling the high frequency of divinely sanctioned polygamy in the Old Testament, which contradicts the Christian position, Rose wondered if there were any Old Testament verses that spoke of being “one flesh” as in Genesis 3. We found none. This sparked our curiosity, so we searched for any reference to Adam and Eve. We found no reference to Eve, and only two references to Adam; one in a genealogy (1 Chronicles 1:1) and a tangential mention in Job 31:33. This seemed very strange. How could it be that the entire Old Testament was missing references to Adam and Eve and the events in the Garden? So we looked to see if there was any mention of the Tree of Knowledge. We found none. So we looked for references to the flood of Noah, and found almost nothing. Noah is mentioned in only two passages of the Old Testament outside of Genesis and they are both very late (Isaiah 54:9, Ezekiel 14:14,20). So we looked for the tower of Babel and found nothing.
The picture then came into focus. The entire Old Testament is almost entirely bereft of any reference to the ten chapters of Genesis 2-11. These are the “mythological” chapters that tell of the garden of Eden, a woman made from a rib, a talking snake, magical trees, the flood of Noah, the rainbow covenant, and the tower of Babel. Their character is very different from the rest of Genesis, including its first chapter, and almost none of the authors of the Old Testament show any awareness of that material at all.
So then we wondered why, if the mythological chapters were missing from the Old Testament, they would be so prominent in the New. So we looked at the Apocrypha, the literature written between the closing of the Old Testament and the writing of the New. And we found many references to the content of the mythological chapters. Indeed, we found a whole retelling of the missing material in 4 Esdras:
And similar material in Wisdom of Sirach:
So now the conclusion seemed obvious. The material from the mythological chapters of Genesis is missing in the Old Testament because it was not widely read, if it existed at all, at the time those books were written. It is found in abundance in the Apocrypha because it had become popular by that time. Therefore, it seems likely that the material was probably inserted into Genesis after the rest of the Old Testament had already been written and before the composition of the Apocrypha.
This is an amazing discovery. I have studied the Bible for over two decades and never noticed the missing mythological chapters of Genesis. I have no idea how I could have overlooked something so obvious. I would be very interested to know what others think about this.
Impact on the Study of the New Testament:
This impacts the study of the New Testament because unlike the Old Testament, it relies strongly on the mythological chapters of Genesis. Paul based his gospel on Christ’s rectification of Adam’s sin:
Likewise, Paul specifically spoke of Eve and the Serpent – something that is mentioned nowhere in the Old Testament other than Genesis 3:
And the Gospels record Christ speaking of the flood of Noah which is mentioned tangentially but twice in the Old Testament:
And the author of Hebrews mentions it:
And in Peter’s letters:
Peter’s reference to the “angels that sinned” brings us to yet another mystery – the source of the demonology that is taken for granted throughout the New Testament as if it were common knowledge. Jude also made reference to the obscure mythology of Genesis 6 which was understood as fallen angels having sex with women to produce “giants” –
Jude was, of course, drawing from the apocryphal book of Enoch which contains an elaborate demonological explanation of Genesis 6. Things like this have always bothered me because the Bible gives no indication where this “knowledge” came from and it is clearly drawn from extra-biblical sources. The Old Testament says almost nothing about any “Satan” and “fallen angels” but it is frequent in the New … and in the Apocrypha which is a primary source of the teachings of the New Testament.
Impact on the question of the Biblical Canon:
This then impacts the question of the canon. Protestants struggle mightily to find a foundation for their doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture alone) because the doctrine cannot be established “from the Bible alone.” It is therefore self-contradictory. The Bible does not list which books it should contain, so they must rely upon tradition rather than Scripture. They try evade this problem by asserting that the books of the Old Testament must pass certain tests. Even when I was a Christian this made little sense to me because I could see they were only making post-hoc arguments designed to imply their assumed conclusion. And besides, their “tests” could never establish the exact canon they accepted, since some books, like Esther, are not referenced in the NT at all.
My project now is to review the Apocrypha to see how strongly the NT depends upon it. I would very much appreciate any references to research already done in this area. I would be particularly interested in any research that discusses the fact that the missing references to the mythological chapters of Genesis.