Monday, September 19, 2005

Adam & Eve Horishon & their pet snake Nachy

[This post is dedicated to Dude. ]

Some people who are a little more conversant with Science say the following peshat in Breishis:

It’s true that there were many human type creatures all over the world dating back hundreds of thousands of years. But when the Torah talks about Adam & Eve it’s really talking about a new modern breed of humanity, and of course there were other people around then too of the older variety.

Adam & Eve were the first of this new breed, and were created by G-d in some fashion, either directly, or maybe through the addition of a special neshamah/intellect. There is no Scientific proof for neshamot even today, so claiming Adam & Eve had the first modern neshamot makes no difference to Science.

Some people even try and link this in to the story of the ‘Sons of the gods' marrying the ‘Daughters of Man’, and claim that this story is about the intermarriage between the descendants of the ‘godly’ Adam and the descendants of the older (but less godly?) 'Neanderthals'. (By the way, both the Malbim and Cassutto dispute this, and R Menachem Kasher notes this in Torah Shelemah.)

The motivation for this strange peshat is to try and preserve Adam & Eve as real people. Clearly, the motivation cannot be preserving the ‘mesorah’ or a literal reading of the text, since this peshat doesn’t fit the text very well without kvetching, nor is it the standard mesorah anyway (though there are certainly indications that Chazal were comfortable with the idea of previous worlds e.g. 974 of them).

So, is it worth saying such a peshat?

I think not, (but I can't prove it). Firstly, to posit that Adam & Eve were two specific people who had more developed neshamot (or brains), who then went on to fertilize the world is scientifically problematic. What about the aboriginees and other far flung peoples? Are they less developed because they don’t have the new Adam & Eve neshama/ genes in them?

Secondly, this still doesn’t help with all the other ‘facts’ in Breishis, like the impossibly long ages or global flood, or incorrect order of creation. So you end up taking many things non literally anyway, and this whole peshat is hardly the same as the traditional mesorah.

I think that it is probably not a co-incidence that the Torah goes back 6000 years, and so does modern civilization.

About 6000 years ago a marked shift occurred and humans became more urbanized. About this same time frame farming and animal husbandry became more popular, and recently some Scientists even talked about changes in brain development 5800 years ago. But this correlates to Breishis mythology for obvious reasons. You could read the story of Adam & Eve as a metaphor for the birth of modern civilization, and it works quite well.

If you really want to insist that there was an actual couple called Adam & Eve Horishon, who lived in a special garden in Iraq, and they had a special neshamah, then of course Science can’t disprove that and neither can I. But don’t forget their pet snake, Nachy. I hear he could tricks.

(And don’t marry off your kids to any Aboriginal Gerim – Pure breeds would still presumably be lacking that special neshamah/gene and you wouldn’t want your grandchildren to be ‘half-neshamas’. They might not get into the good yeshivas.)