Thursday, May 5, 2005

Odom Horishon: Man or Myth ?

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In this post, I would like to explore how compatible the story of Odom horishon is with modern science. Some people are under the impression that the two stories can fit. They basically give a peshat that although there were humans before Odom, and although the world is billions of years old, these humanoids were lacking some kind of soul, and so the Torah is not interested in them. Odom was the first person to have a neshamah, and that’s why the Torah talks about him as the first man. So lets see how well this fits. I shall skip the first perek of Breishis because its very general and could be explained any which way, Odom could mean mankind, so its inconclusive. So lets go straight to the second perek.

ה וְכֹל שִׂיחַ הַשָּׂדֶה, טֶרֶם יִהְיֶה בָאָרֶץ, וְכָל-עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה, טֶרֶם יִצְמָח: כִּי לֹא הִמְטִיר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, עַל-הָאָרֶץ, וְאָדָם אַיִן, לַעֲבֹד אֶת-הָאֲדָמָה

The Torah says clearly that there was no man to till the ground until Odom Horishon. This is strange, since farming developed more than 5765 years ago. maybe the story of Odom happened, lets say 10,000 years ago ? Only if you take the text non-literally. Perhaps the Torah is talking about advanced farming techniques which developed about 6,000 years ago. Only Odom knew these.

ז וַיִּיצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם, עָפָר מִן-הָאֲדָמָה, וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו, נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים; וַיְהִי הָאָדָם, לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה

The Torah is describing how G-d created Odom. I guess even though there were plenty of people around all over the world, we could say there was a Nes and a new type of person was created specifically by G-d.

ח וַיִּטַּע יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, גַּן-בְּעֵדֶן--מִקֶּדֶם; וַיָּשֶׂם שָׁם, אֶת-הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר יָצָר.

So this new type of person is placed in a special garden, somewhere in the East. Although there were plenty of other people around, maybe they were not allowed into the garden ? A little strange.

יח וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, לֹא-טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ; אֶעֱשֶׂה-לּוֹ עֵזֶר, כְּנֶגְדּוֹ.

Although the other humanoids all had female companions (obviously), this new type of human didn’t, so G-d created one. A little strange.

כה וַיִּהְיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם עֲרוּמִּים, הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ; וְלֹא, יִתְבֹּשָׁשׁוּ

Although everyone else around is wearing clothes, for some reason this new type of human doesn’t realise he is naked. A little strange.

א וְהַנָּחָשׁ, הָיָה עָרוּם, מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים; וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה, אַף כִּי-אָמַר אֱלֹהִים, לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן.

Snakes outside of Eden at this point did not speak, but inside the Garden we have a speaking snake. Also strange. Maybe all snakes spoke up till that point ? Or was this a special garden variety of talking snake, indigenous to Gan Eden but not found anywhere else ?

כג וַיְשַׁלְּחֵהוּ יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, מִגַּן-עֵדֶן--לַעֲבֹד, אֶת-הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר לֻקַּח, מִשָּׁם.

So Odom and Chavah get banished from Gan Eden, and have to go out into the world. There, I guess for the first time, they come into contact with the other humanoids, who don’t have the special souls. The other humanoids are intelligent though, and have pottery, paintings, social life, etc etc. But they don’t know how to farm the land. I guess they were all carnivores.

א וַיְהִי כִּי-הֵחֵל הָאָדָם, לָרֹב עַל-פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה; וּבָנוֹת, יֻלְּדוּ לָהֶם.
ב וַיִּרְאוּ בְנֵי-הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת-בְּנוֹת הָאָדָם, כִּי טֹבֹת הֵנָּה; וַיִּקְחוּ לָהֶם נָשִׁים, מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר בָּחָרוּ.

This strange story is often taken to mean that the sons of Odom (called Bnei Elokim) started to marry the humanoid daughters (called bnos ho’odom), which was bad, because they didn’t have souls. It’s a little confusing. Also, the first posuk talks about man spreading across the earth, however the humnaoids had already spread across the earth a long time ago, it was really the Bnei Elokim, the descendants of Odom HaRishon who were now spreading. I guess we could just switch back to the Artscroll translation here and Bnei Elokim just means Sons of the Rulers, and this story is really about the ruling class grabbing wives from the working class.

Other difficulties with this mehalech are many. If only Odom and his descendants had souls, what about the native Americans and Aboriginess who didn’t come into contact with modern man until relatively recently ? Do they not have souls ?

Some people like to answer that in fact from Odom onward, then everybody got a soul at the same time. If so, why are Odom and Chavah unique ?

Also, this is such a dochek way of explaining the text, its worse than saying it’s a moshol. The Torah is clearly describing the very first man and woman. Its not describing two special people in a special garden, who are then released into an already populated world.

I think its abundantly clear that even without science, this story is a moshol / myth. With science, kal vechomer it is. How people can possibly believe that its describing actual events is beyond me.