Creation Myths – Lexham Bible Dictionary


Ancient mythological texts in narrative or poetic form that describe the origins and structure of the created world.

Biblical Relevance

Myths are stories that describe the interaction of the divine and human worlds, with the purpose of explaining why certain things are the way they are. Creation myths, then, are mythological stories that explain how the world came into being, but more important, they explain why the world is structured the way it is and why it functions as it does. Creation myths in the ancient Near East share certain generic features and religious perspectives. Scholars have increasingly drawn on these ancient Near Eastern creation myths to better understand the literary and conceptual background of the primeval history in Gen 1–11.

Creation Myths in the Ancient Near East

Egyptian Creation Myths

Egyptian cosmology (concerning the structure of the world) is based on the idea that everything in the world, both human and divine, developed from one primordial substance, symbolized by the watery chaos called Nun. The creator god Atum evolved out of this primordial abyss and then gave birth to the eight other high gods. He created Nut (sky) and Geb (earth) to separate the world from Nun (the abyss; from the Book of Nut, written in the first half of the second millennium BC). Under Nut’s arching form, he created Shu (atmosphere) to hold up the sky. Atum himself turned into Re (the sun-god) and then created Maat (order) to serve as his companion and assistant in maintaining the structure and integrity of the world.

As in the biblical creation stories, the cosmos depicted in Egyptian myths is in a dynamic struggle against primordial chaos that continually threatens to flood back into the world. Reflection on the creation of humanity is rare in Egyptian texts, but one text uses the similarity between the word for humans (rmṯ) and tears (rmyt) to suggest that humans were born from the tears shed from Atum’s eye: “I made the gods evolve from my sweat, while people are from the tears of my Eye” (Coffin Texts, Spell 1130; see Batto, “Ancient Near East Context,” 20).

Mesopotamian Creation Myths

An early Mesopotamian description of creation is found in a fragmentary Sumerian text from 1600 BC, Eridu Genesis, which mentions the creation of animals and humans by An, Enlil, Enki, and Ninḫursag, and narrates the mother goddess Nintur’s establishment of great cities with their kings (COS 1:513–15). The tablet includes parts of the Mesopotamian flood narrative, with a hero named Ziusudra (see “Atra-Ḫasis,” COS 1:450–52).

Another Sumerian text that describes the creation of humans is the story of Enki and Ninmah, which says that people were born from bits of clay that Enki directed his mother, Nammu, to place inside the womb of the mother goddesses. The text connects this initial act of insemination with the human process of procreation: “Thus she created mankind male and female.… By the male inseminating the female will beget an offspring” (COS 1:518). Sumerian myths such as these are important precursors to the more complete Babylonian texts that would later draw from them.

The cosmology of the Babylonian creation story, Enuma Elish, is remarkably similar to that found in Egyptian and biblical texts, but it is based on a combat myth, a story of the creator god’s struggle against the power of chaos to establish the world. In Enuma Elish (ca. 1100 BC), the high gods emerge from the commingling of Tiamat (the salt water in the ocean) and Apsu (the fresh water under the earth). Apsu tries to kill the gods, but he is slain by Ea, the god of wisdom. When Tiamat attacks with her general Qingu, the gods call in Ea’s son, Marduk, to fight on their behalf. Marduk kills Tiamat and then uses her carcass to create the world. He splits her, stretches out half to form the heavens, and establishes the other half as the earth and the underworld. He then takes blood from Qinqu and mixes it with clay to form humans, who are given the task of digging canals and serving the gods. This creation myth serves as a celebration of Marduk and of Babylon. As the upstart, Marduk has attained preeminence over the older gods in his victory over chaos, so Babylon has achieved world domination.

Creation Myths in the Levant

No creation myth is found among the Ugaritic texts from Bronze Age Canaan, although the cosmological worldview that appears in those texts is similar to both Mesopotamian and later biblical exemplars. Most notable in this regard is the conflict between Ba’al and the sea-god, Yam. Water or flood as a symbol of primordial chaos appears in the story of Marduk’s battle against Tiamat as well as biblical texts such as Pss 29:3; 33:7; 74:13; 77:16; Prov 8:29. Another important cosmological motif in the Ugaritic texts is the building of Ba’al’s palace, which in some ways either mirrors or is the foundation of the cosmos. The order of creation is maintained from Ba’al’s palace/temple (Fisher, “Creation at Ugarit,” 320).

Creation Myth in Genesis 1–11

Myth and the Bible

For more than a century, biblical scholars have been comparing the biblical traditions with myths from the ancient Near East. The language and conceptual world of ancient Near Eastern mythology provides a useful lens through which to understand the biblical text in its ancient context. Despite the many similarities, what we find in the Bible differs from surrounding myths in both theological and literary senses.

Recently there have been many studies that take a sophisticated approach to mythological thinking in the Hebrew Bible. Bernard Batto argues that the biblical writers integrated mythological elements into their narrative, a process that he calls “mythopoetic” reflection (Batto, “Ancient Near East Context”). Mark Smith shows the extent to which the Bible’s monotheism is itself the product of ongoing development, which raises the possibility that the earliest biblical texts are more narrowly mythological. Evangelical scholars have also worked to situate the Genesis creation stories within their ancient context. John Walton, for example, argues in Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology that the biblical creation stories function within their “cognitive environment” in a way that is similar to other ancient cosmologies. Walton suggests that the biblical creation stories present a functional ontology, that is, an account of creation that explains the purpose of each element within God’s ordered plan, not an explanation of each element’s origin.

Reading Primeval History of Genesis 1–11

When talking about creation myths in the Hebrew Bible, it is important to examine the whole of the primeval history (Gen 1–11) and not only Gen 1–3. The literary traditions that stand behind the current form of Gen 1–11 treat the creation and flood narratives as parts of the same story. Batto has argued that the Priestly and Yahwistic components of the composite flood narrative serve as conclusions to their respective creation accounts in Gen 1 and Gen 2–3. By reading Genesis 1–11 through the lens of ancient mythology, we can understand better the shape and function of the biblical cosmology. Aspects of Mesopotamian and Egyptian mythology resonate with these biblical texts, though the integration of mythological elements within the narrative form of Genesis has obscured somewhat the conceptual background of biblical terms.

In the so-called “Priestly” creation story found in Gen 1, God creates the world through a process of separation. The light is separated from the already existing darkness, and the waters of chaos are separated by the dome of the sky, pushed back to a holding place above and below the ground. This creates a safe space in which God can create the celestial bodies and all life. This cosmology is very similar to the three-level vaulted cosmos pictured in ancient Near Eastern creation myths. When the flood occurs, God opens the “windows of the heavens” and the “fountains of the great deep,” and that water, primordial chaos, pours back into the world. In essence, therefore, the “Priestly” version of the flood is an exact reversal of the creation in Gen 1.

The Yahwistic creation story in Gen 2–3 is a story of a creative process that progresses in stages. Like an artist, God creates the world in steps, each one responding to the effects of the last. After making Adam, God makes an environment for him. God determines that the animals are not a suitable companion for Adam and thus creates Eve. When the human couple gains wisdom by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God sends them out of the garden to prevent them from eating from the tree of life and thus gaining immortality (Gen 3:22–23). This story reflects the common mythological motif of humans striving to become divine and immortal. By exiling them from the garden, God preserves the barrier between the divine and human realms. The problem of sin and human presumption continues, however. The “Yahwistic” portion of the flood narrative says that God was grieved by the wickedness of humankind and “was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth” (Gen 6:5–6). The flood and God’s selection of Noah, therefore, represent another step in the ongoing creation process. From this perspective, God seemingly hopes to set things right with the flood, just as He did with the creation of Eve after the animals and the exile from the garden after the human choice to eat the fruit.

Cosmological and Theological Considerations

The creation stories in Gen 1–3 share many common features with Egyptian and Mesopotamian mythology. John Walton argues, “Not a single element of Israelite cosmology can be identified as having no antecedents whatsoever in the ancient world” (Walton, Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, 197). The particular configuration of these ancient motifs within the theological context of Israelite monotheism can also be compared with other ancient cosmologies.

The most striking similarity between the Genesis account and ancient myths is the cosmology itself, the three-tiered structure of the universe in which the earth is separated from the heavens by a vault above and supported by pillars below. Heavenly bodies such as the sun, moon, and constellations travel across the sky within the dome of the heavens and serve the purpose of regulating times and seasons. Another similarity is the creation of humans whose purpose is to work the ground that is created through the separation of heavens and earth. However, in Enuma Elish humans are little more than slaves. In texts such as the Eridu Genesis and Gen 1–3, humans have a much higher status in the cosmic order.

An important difference between the biblical texts and their ancient counterparts is the monotheistic perspective of ancient Israel. In surveying the complex interaction between Yahwism and ancient polytheism, Patrick D. Miller notes that the “general absence of myth” in the Bible is related to the fact that Israel unified all aspects of deity within one God, Yahweh (Miller, Religion of Ancient Israel, 26). Rather than seeing the heavenly realm as a site of divine conflict, Israel’s God rules over the divine council as the only true and worthy deity (Psa 82). Other scholars understand Israel’s monotheism more broadly as henotheism, or the devotion of Israel to one God even though other gods exist (Penchansky, Twilight of the Gods, xi). Either way, the creation stories in Genesis emphasize God’s divine sovereignty over every aspect of creation. God is glorified, as Christopher Hays says, through the denial of other deities, a “refusal to acknowledge other gods [that] creates a loud silence” (Hays, Hidden Riches, 72).

From a literary perspective, the biblical writers incorporate mythological motifs, but with a narrative effect quite distinct from that of ancient Near Eastern myths. Genesis 1 describes creation through an act of separation, in a way similar to Marduk’s slicing of Tiamat to form the cosmos. However, the verbs for God’s acts of separating are abstract, in contrast with the Enuma Elish’s use of verbs such as “slit,” “smashed,” “severed,” “bound,” and “tore open” (Hays, Hidden Riches, 68). Whereas the heavenly bodies are divine beings in Egypt and Mesopotamia, Gen 1 asserts that they are merely part of the creation, and inanimate. The “primordial chaos” that God defeats in Gen 1 serves a similar purpose to that of Tiamat in Enuma Elish, but it is not a personified deity. However, God refers to a plurality of divine beings in the cohortative, “let us make humankind in our image” in Gen 1:26—a command that some have interpreted to suggest the presence of other divine beings. Within the literary thread of Genesis as it stands, this pronoun may also refer to a divine plurality within God or to angelic companions within the divine court. The purpose of the text is not to make a claim about the nature of the divine world, but to establish the centrality of humankind in the created order (Holland, Gods in the Desert, 218).

Central to both ancient Near Eastern and biblical mythological traditions is the notion of a divine struggle against the power of chaos that threatens to undo creation. In his classic work, Creation and the Persistence of Evil, Jon D. Levenson argues that “chaos” is the key to understanding the reality of suffering in the world; it is a non-personified force that strains against the boundaries that God established in the creation of the world. However, though Genesis 1 echoes the idea of creation through violent conflict with chaos, God creates by speaking a word, not through a battle or divine conflict. Mark Smith describes this as “a paradigm shift in the presentation of creation.” The biblical text “shows only a hint of this old tradition” of conflict leading to creation (Smith, Origins, 168). Humans are then called to participate with God in maintaining the healthy boundaries of creation through tabernacle worship.

Selected Resources for Further Study

Batto, Bernard. “The Ancient Near East Context of the Hebrew Ideas of Creation.” Pages 7–53 in In the Beginning: Essays on Creation Motifs in the Ancient Near East and the Bible. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2013.

Batto, Bernard. Slaying the Dragon: Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition. Louisville, KY.: Westminster John Knox, 1992.

Fisher, Loren R. “Creation at Ugarit and in the Old Testament.” Vetus Testamentum 15 (1965): 313–24.

Hays, Christopher B. Hidden Riches: A Sourcebook for the Comparative Study of the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East. Louisville, KY.: Westminster John Knox, 2014.

Holland, Glenn S. Gods in the Desert: Religions of the Ancient Near East. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009.
Levenson, Jon D. Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Miller, Patrick D. The Religion of Ancient Israel. Louisville, KY.: Westminster John Knox, 2000.

Penchansky, David. Twilight of the Gods: Polytheism in the Hebrew Bible. Louisville, KY.: Westminster John Knox, 2005.
Smith, Mark S. The Priestly Vision of Genesis One. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010.
———. The Early History of God: Yahweh and Other Deities in Ancient Israel. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.
———. The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Walton, John. Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2011.


Bibb, B. D. (2016). Creation Myths. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.


Gen chapters 1-11 and Primeval History from the Anchor Bible Dictionary

PRIMEVAL HISTORY. A modern label that scholars have applied to Genesis 1–11 and to a particular type of narrative pattern reflected not only in Genesis 1–11 but in other ANE literary sources.

A. Definitions
B. Patterns of Primeval History
1. Narrative Pattern
2. Genealogical Pattern
C. Purpose
D. Genesis 1–11
1. Narrative Pattern
2. Genealogical Pattern
E. Other “Primeval History” Patterns in the Bible
1. Exodus 1–2
2. Matthew 1–3
3. Other Biblical Books
F. Indo-European Literature
1. Iranian Tradition
2. Indian Tradition
3. Classical Tradition

A. Definitions

When a child asks, “Mommy, where did I come from?” the awareness of historical thought begins. When society asks us, “Who are you, anyway?” we begin to formulate history. We start to form a list of credentials, of memorable and significant events, including the definite point at which our historical accounting begins. One could start one’s own history at this point, but ANE society seems to have demanded that history, whether personal or national, should begin rather with the very beginning of the world.

The problem with this requirement is that there were no human observers at the beginning of the world. But the people of the ANE knew that there must have been a more distant past lying behind the knowable past. To account for this, ancient historians had to posit the beginning of history, speculative both factually and philosophically. From that point on, going forward in time, they speculated about how the world in its fullness, including their untenable past and unknowable ancestors, came to be.

This speculative, often mythological history between the creation of the world up to the point when one’s historical memory begins became well patterned and traditional in the ANE. This patterned portion of history is here termed “primeval history.”
The primeval history is a long and well-established literary convention (Kikawada 1974) in the ancient world, first detected in the Sumerian literature of the 21st century B.C. and continuing through the Semitic literature in Akkadian and Hebrew down to classical and later Indo-European literature. One may consider it as an indication of the ANE V 5, p 462 people’s awareness of what the modern geologist calls “deep time.”

Accordingly, Genesis 1–11 is the primeval history of the Bible on the cosmological and world-historical levels. There are also many passages on the level of biography in the Bible, such as Exodus 1–2 and Matthew 1–3, that must be included in the literary category of primeval history (Kikawada and Quinn 1985).

B. Patterns of Primeval History

Since the “patterns of primeval history” are common to biblical and other literature, for convenience and clarity the two distinct patterns are described in terms of the Mesopotamian cuneiform literature. The first pattern is the narrative pattern of primeval history and it is derived from the Akkadian Epic of Atrahasis, the so-called Babylonian Flood Story (Lambert and Millard 1969).

The second is the genealogical pattern, derived from the Sumerian genealogical material known as the Sumerian King List (Jacobsen 1939) and other Mesopotamian genealogical material. The common characteristic of the two is the great Flood standing at the end of the mythological or quasi-mythological epoch and ushering in the new, and more or less “factual,” epoch. The great Flood is the epoch divider, signaling the end of the primeval history and anticipating the beginning of a new age.

  1. Narrative Pattern. The Atrahasis Epic furnishes us with the basic narrative pattern of the primeval history (Laessøe 1956) in a five-story outline. The epic starts with the beginning of the world, when only the gods existed. The story tells us the reason why and the process by which the gods created human beings. The next three stories are concerned with the very successful procreation and multiplication of the human population and the gods’ attempt to exterminate the ever-increasing population in three stages. But the human beings are saved from extinction at each of the three attempts. The second stage has two steps; somehow the gods had to intensify the extermination effort, for the plan was not working well. In the third stage we find the great Flood story. The last story relates the postflood compromise among the gods concerning population control (Kilmer 1972). Thus, the topical outline of the primeval history narrative may be articulated as follows: A. Creation: God’s Work and Creation of mankind
    B. First threat to Mankind: Overpopulation and Control by Plague
    C. Second Threat: Overpopulation and Control by Drought
    C’. Threat Intensified—Severer Means
    D. Third Threat: Over population and Control by Flood
    E. Resolution: Population Control

The historical time covered is from before the creation of mankind through the great Flood, to the post-Flood resolution regarding the increasing population. Note that there are only three narrative generations of expansion and diminution of the population, although these generations are of 1,200 years each. The predominant theme is how to deal with the ever-increasing population which even the great Flood could not resolve. The Atrahasis Epic resolves the problem by instituting “birth control” by means of the gods creating barrenness among women, demons to cause crib death, and three types of nuns to put some women out of procreation. The greatest variation among the specimens of primeval history discussed in this article is in the means of resolution to the problem of overpopulation.

The Sumerian forerunner to the Atrahasis pattern of primeval history may be obtained from the Sumerian Deluge story, but extreme caution must be applied since only 20 percent of the story is preserved. There is also a view that the Enki and Ninmah story plus the Sumerian Deluge may give us a more nearly complete pattern (Kilmer 1976).

The Akkadian story of the Worm and Toothache intriguingly gives us the genealogical narrative of a worm that claims as its ancestry none other than the retired chief of the Mesopotamian pantheon, Anu himself, but this story lacks the great Flood. This may indicate either that the entire story is in the primeval historical context, or that it is from a separate tradition.

  1. Genealogical Pattern. The Sumerian King List furnishes the basic genealogical pattern with seven to ten generations from the beginning to the great Flood, depending on how one counts them. The main characteristic of these antediluvian kings is their extreme longevity, such as King Alulim reigning for 280,000 years. This makes the antediluvian period, though consisting only of seven or ten generations, much longer than the postdiluvian period, comprised of many generations. The postdiluvian King Zambia, for instance, reigned only three years. The great Flood (Sum AMARU, Akk abūbu) thus bisects ancient world history, establishing a historiographic time axis with such expressions as “before the Flood” (Akk lām abūbi, cf. lammabbûl, Ps 29:10) and “after the Flood” (Akk arki abūbi, cf. Gen 9:28; 10:1, 32; 11:10), analogous to our convention of B.C. and A.D. divisions in world history and “antebellum” and “postbellum” in American history.

  2. Although the Sumerian King List establishes the basic genealogical pattern of primeval history, perhaps more relevant to biblical studies is the Akkadian synchronic “List of Sages” (van Dijk 1962). The kings and sages (Akk apkallu for antediluvian and Akk ummannu for postdiluvian “sage”) are listed side by side in this genealogy before the Flood as “[in the] time of Aialu the king, U’an was the sage (apkallu)” and after the Flood as “[during the reign of Gilgam]sh, Sinligunninni was the sage (ummannu).” In this list, the antediluvian period is accounted for in two genealogical lines, one line of kings and the other of sages. Also note that the kings are associated with cities according to the Sumerian King List, whereas the sages are linked to clever cultural inventions such as music, metallurgy, and the religious cult, and to “walking with god,” especially in the light of the “List of Sages” and another list of sages known as “The Etiological Myth of the ‘Seven Sages’ ” (Reiner 1961).

C. Purpose

The main purpose of the primeval history, be it in the form of narrative or genealogy, appears to be establishing one’s first section of credentials, tracing back to the very beginning of the world. The primeval history, in a small neat package, is a formal introduction to a history or to a V 5, p 463 biography, adding to it the notion of “deep time.” Once the primeval history became concisely patterned in both the narrative and genealogical tradition, it became a literary convention easily prefixed to any memory-based history, whether national or personal.

The great Flood became the primeval historical device to separate the two major epochs; it is the ANE epoch divider par excellence, lying between speculative history and memory-based history. Conversely, it may be considered as a bridge to fill in the gap between the two epochs. The great Flood is a very convenient literary device for the ancient historians; they need not claim any factual knowledge of earlier things, since symbolically the flood washed away all records. Thus, the great Flood signaled to the ancient reader that anything that had happened before it was speculative and mythological rather than factual and concrete.

D. Genesis 1–11

In the first eleven chapters of Genesis we have an example of a full primeval history, where the five-point-outline narrative and the double-line genealogical traditions (Wilson GHBW) are fused together into a single literary unit. The primeval history in turn constitutes the first and introductory cycle of the five cycles of the book of Genesis. Then, on a still larger scale, the book of Genesis constitutes the literary unit that introduces a five-book Torah (for a brief discussion, see below). Observe also that all three of the succeedingly larger units—the primeval history, the book of Genesis, and the Pentateuch—conclude with exactly the same motifs, among them the references to Abraham, to someone (Terah, Joseph, Moses) dying, and to the promised land still unreached.

  1. Narrative Pattern. There are five major stories told in Genesis 1–11: A. Creation, God’s Work and Rest (1:1–2:3)
    B. Adam and Eve, First Threat to Mankind (2:5–3:24)
    C. Cain and Abel, Second Threat to Mankind (4:1–16)
    C´. Threat Intensified—Lamech’s Taunt (4:23–24)
    D. The Great Flood, Third Threat, and Noah’s Ark (6:1–9:29)
    E. Tower of Babel, Population Control by Dispersion (11:1–9)

The narrative structure of Genesis 1–11 conforms to the five-point outline of the primeval history narrative of the Atrahasis Epic (cf. Millard 1967). The creation story is the cosmic introduction, majestically telling the story of divine work and rest in the uniquely Hebrew seven-day week. Then, three stories of the near extinction of newly created mankind follow. Adam is almost killed, but is allowed to live on and even to have children. Fifty percent of the following generation is eliminated when Abel is killed, but Cain lives on. Virtually everyone of Noah’s generation is wiped off the earth, but the remaining ones repopulate the earth. Note that the sevenfold revenge instituted for Cain is echoed in Lamech’s taunt but is intensified seventy times (C and C´). The story of dispersion as a resolution to the population problem concludes the primeval history.

While the form and themes of the Genesis 1–11 narrative parallel those of the Mesopotamian forerunners, the resolution of the population problem is diametrically opposed. The book of Genesis insists that the multiplication of people is a divine blessing and tries to accommodate it by dispersion of the population upon the face of the whole earth, whereas in the Babylonian epic, birth control measures are divinely instituted. This theological opposition may be accounted for by assuming two sociologically different communities; the Babylonian society was urban, confined to a limited space, and menaced by overpopulation, while the Hebrew society was more rural, welcoming population expansion. For the Hebrews, there was the whole earth to expand into, while the Babylonians locked themselves in the limited space of the walled city.

Certainly the themes of the biblical narrative are more complex than just the compounding stages of population expansion and diminution, although they are highlighted as the predominant theme of the primeval historical narrative. The biblical author, for instance, overlaid the narrative with the ethical structure that makes it a complementary part of the larger scheme of the whole Torah. In the first story ethical perfection is declared: all things God created were “very good.”

From the following story on, people degenerate ethically, but God repeatedly tries to set them right by forgiving them. Despite repeated disobedience and rebellion in the three narrative generations (namely Adam, Cain, and Noah), mankind is allowed to exist and continues to propagate, as commanded in the blessing of the creation story, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28).

As though to implement this blessing, the fifth and last story (Gen 11:1–9) accommodates the expanding population in a distinctively Hebrew way. Note that this dispersion produces Abram in the genealogy that follows, and that Abram is the key link between the antediluvian primeval history and the postdiluvian patriarchal narrative (contra von Rad, Genesis OTL). Thus, the primeval history of the Bible concludes with the introduction of the first hero of the next epoch, Abram.

  1. Genealogical Pattern. The genealogy (tōlĕdôt) links the five stories of Genesis 1–11 together and binds them to the rest of the book (contra Westermann, Genesis BKAT). Thus, there is a genealogy line corresponding to the story line described in the previous section. See Fig. PRI.01. The genealogy from Adam to Noah is either seven or ten generations deep (Wilson GHBW), but the narrative represents only three generations. Significantly, Genesis 4–5 preserves the antediluvian genealogy in double lines,
  2. briefly interrupted by Lamech’s taunt. Note that Cain is associated with a city as in the Mesopotamian genealogy of kings, while Jabal, Jubal, Tubal-cain, and Enoch are attributed with cultural inventions and “walking with God,” just as are the Mesopotamian sages. The preservation of both the king-type figure and the sage-type figure in Genesis 4–5 may reflect the ancient Mesopotamian synchronic list of sages and kings, and this may perhaps help explain the existence of two genealogies linking Adam to Noah (cf. Indian double genealogies of Manu).

Also note that the historiographic expression “after the Flood” is preserved in Gen 9:28; 10:1, 32; 11:10, indicating that the Flood is the epoch divider in the biblical tradition as it is in the Mesopotamian. In this context, lammabbûl of Psalm 29:10 may be seen contextually as an equivalent to “before the Flood,” since this expression is paralleled to the cosmic time expression, “forever.”

E. Other “Primeval History” Patterns in the Bible

Although there are many manifestations of the patterns of the primeval history in both the OT and NT, either directly conforming to them or obliquely alluding to them, the intent and purpose of these passages must be evaluated according to the position of each passage in its larger literary context. First, let us look at other biblical examples of the primeval history that preface the biography of Moses (Exodus 1–2) and Jesus (Matthew 1–3). Second, let us examine a few sample passages that make oblique reference to the primeval history.

  1. Exodus 1–2. A type of primeval history is prefaced to the biography of Moses. The narrative outline of Exodus 1–3 is identical to Genesis 1–11: A. Creation by Procreation—Genealogy Linking to Genesis
    B. First Threat to Hebrew Population—Affliction with Heavy burdens
    C. Second Threat—Tale of two Midwives
    C´. Threat Intensified—Drowning of Children
    D. Third Threat—“the Flood” and Moses’ Ark
    E. Resolution—“Exodus” into Midian

The predominant theme of population expansion and diminution is clearly present and the solution to the population problem here is identical to the nomadic solution of Genesis 11, that is, “dispersion” or a little “exodus,” wherein Moses goes away from the center of activity into the wilderness of Midian, just as Abram leaves an urban center. Moses’ murder of an Egyptian and relocation of himself to the wilderness may be analogous to the motif sequence of the Cain and Abel story.

Note some verbal allusions to the Genesis narrative, such as Moses’ mother making for him the “ark” (Heb tēbâ) of bulrushes pitched with pitch and mortar (Exod 2:3; cf. Gen 6:14); Moses’ mother “saw that he was good” (Exod 2:2; cf. Gen 1:4, etc.); the children of Israel became “fruitful” and abundant, and “multiplied” and became strong, and “the earth was filled with them” (Exod 1:7, 12, 20; cf. Gen 1:28). Note also the rhetorical features such as those seen in the speech of Pharaoh, “Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply …” (Exod 1:10), echoing the speech of YHWH in Gen 11:7 (“Come, let us go down …, lest they may not …”); and the way in which the two midwives are named, “the name of the one is Shiphrah and the name of the other is Puah” (Exod 1:15), echoes the way Lamech’s wives are named in Gen 4:19.

While Exodus 1–2 parallels the Genesis 1–11 narrative, perhaps more striking parallels are found between it and the Atrahasis Epic, especially in regard to the two opposing divine forces working to destroy and to save the Hebrew population in Egypt. The primeval historical section of Moses’ biography, however, upholds the blessing of Genesis 1:28, symbolically removing Moses from the urban center to the wilderness, anticipating the forthcoming event of the massive Exodus from Egypt. This, as well as the dispersion story of Gen 11:1–9, may be considered an example of anti-Babylonian, antiurban rhetoric from the extraurban point of view.

The genealogical element of the primeval history is concentrated in the beginning of the narrative and constitutes a story unit (A. Creation by Procreation). “Joseph was already in Egypt” (Exod 1:5) links this story unit to the book of Genesis; genealogically, Moses becomes linked to Adam. This genealogical line then is punctuated by Moses’ own miniature Flood (D. Third Threat—“the Flood”). Thus, complete history from the beginning on is told on a biographical scale; one may state this as “biography recapitulates historiography.”

  1. Matthew 1–3. The same phenomenon is observable in Matthew’s primeval history. “The book of ‘Genesis’ [Gk Genesis] of Jesus Christ” is how Matthew begins his gospel (1:1) and as such one may expect allusion to the book of Genesis. Matthew 1–3 certainly parallels not only Genesis 1–11 but also Exodus 1–2; thus, it is also a primeval historical biography. The following is the basic five-point outline: A. “Creation” by Genealogy—Abraham to Jesus
    B. Birth of Jesus
    C. Three Wise Men
    C´. Slaughter of the Innocents
    D. Flight to Egypt and Return—a Little “Exodus”
    E. Baptism and Dove—a Little “Flood”

The story of three wise men is consigned here as a foil story to the slaughter-of-the-innocents story, yielding C and C´ in the outline, primarily because (1) the principal character of the birth, slaughter, and flight stories is the divine agent who commands Joseph, whereas in the wise men story Herod is the one who commands and whose command was not heeded by the wise men, and (2) there are almost verbatim threefold repetitions of the introduction to the angelic speeches in the birth, slaughter, and flight stories, while the angel does not speak in the wise men story but compromises Herod’s plan.

The birth story here fills B, and the story of the extermination of the undesirable population is now concentrated in C´. The “flood” and “exodus” now switch places; the flight into Egypt and return to Israel occupy D, while the miniature “flood” (reminiscent of Exodus 2) occupies E in the form of the baptism, the salvation out of water with the presence of a dove. Nonetheless, at the end of Matthew 3 Jesus is placed in the wilderness just as was Moses in Exodus 2.

V 5, p 465 The structure of the narrative as a whole thus places Jesus formally in the antediluvian primeval history like Noah and Moses, while the genealogy of A links Jesus to the first Hebrew of the postdiluvian history. Thereby, Matthew has recast the time span from creation to Jesus in the primeval historical form of narrative.

  1. Other Biblical Books. Both the OT and NT are full of allusions to and reflections of the primeval historical outline and motifs. The following are some examples, and one might be reminded that this is still a fruitful field of future study. Aside from the basic organization of the Torah and of Genesis, which is similar to that of Genesis 1–11, the court history of David and Solomon is considered to parallel the narrative progression of the primeval history of Genesis as originally suggested by Walter Brueggemann (1968). The five-point outline of the parallel accounts is shown in Table 1.

Genesis 1–11
2 Samuel–1 Kings
Creation—God saw everything very good: ṭôb mĕʾōd
David saw Vathsheba very good ṭôb mĕʾōd
Adam and Eve—death threat and curse
David and Bathsheba—death threat and curse
Cain and Abel—anger, murder exile
Amnon and Absalom—hate, murder, exile
Noah and the Flood—new beginning for Noah
Rebellion of Absalom—new beginning for David
Dispersion—Tower of Babel, name, city building, scattered people
Solomon—Dispersion, name, city building, scattered realm

Hesse and Kikawada (1984) have shown that the book of Jonah reverses the topical progression of Genesis 1–11. That is, the book of Jonah ironically reverses the primeval history, ending up with the creation motif in order to interpret the Mosaic covenant in a new light. It begins with the “dispersion” story of Jonah, who is unwilling to go to Nineveh and so journeys away from Mesopotamia. The miniature “flood” story follows with many verbal echoes of the Noah story, then comes the “Cain and Abel” story of angry dialogue between YHWH and Jonah in which YHWH asks, “Does it do any good (hêṭēb, 4:4; cf. Gen 4:6–7) to be angry?” Also, the name Abel (hablê šāwʾ) is hidden in the conclusion of the hymn of thanksgiving (Jonah 2:8). A little “Adam and Eve” story is told next in the episode of the worm and the gourd tree under which a life-and-death conversation takes place.

The sixth day of the “creation” story in which man and cattle were created is again alluded to at the very end of the Jonah book in the phrase “and much cattle.” Note that the entire Jonah book is set in seven narrative days; three days in the fish’s stomach, three days to go across the great city, and the seventh day just to sit and talk with God. In fact, the allusions to creation are abundant, not only in that Jonah “fears YHWH, the God of Heaven, who created the sea and the dry land,” but all through the book when God creates, destroys, and manipulates natural phenomena at will as the creator.

F. Indo-European Literature
A trace of the ANE convention of the primeval history can be felt in the Old Iranian and Indian literature to the east and in the classical material to the west.

  1. Iranian Tradition. The second book of the Vendidad (Vidēvdāt) includes a Zoroastrian version of the great Flood story, featuring Yima as the hero in a five-point outline with the predominant theme of overpopulation: A. Introduction and Institution of First King Yima
    B. Overpopulation and the First Expansion of Earth
    C. Overpopulation and the Second Expansion of Earth
    D. Overpopulation and the Third Expansion of Earth
    E. Overpopulation and the Preparation for the Flood

Note that while retaining the basic five-point outline of the primeval history, this account makes the Flood story occupy the last position. However, Yima, the first man and the first king (Christensen 1943), lives through all the generations of overpopulation, interceding for his people as did Atrahasis. In the end, to save mankind and preserve the best of the creatures from the impending flood, Yima is instructed to build an elaborate structure for salvation. But it is not clear whether the Flood is something that happened in the past or that is going to happen in an eschatological future (cf. Gunkel 1895).

  1. Indian Tradition. From India we can recover both the narrative and genealogical traditions that featured Manu Vaivasvata as the Flood hero. He is the seventh Manu according to the Viṣṇu Purāna genealogy (Thapar 1976) and the Flood hero according to the 9th-century-B.C. story of Manu and a Fish (O’Flaherty 1975). In the story of Manu and a Fish we have a one-man or one-fish “overpopulation” and Flood story. One day Manu saves a fish that rapidly grows big. He tries to accommodate it in succeedingly larger containers but finally he has to release it in the ocean. Some time later, the fish reappears to Manu, instructing him to tie a boat onto the horn growing on its head so that Manu can be towed to the highest mountain to save himself from the impending Flood.
    The Indian genealogical material is more pertinent to the OT tradition than to Mesopotamian, for it preserves a compound pattern similar to the OT genealogy rather than to the simple linear genealogies of Mesopotamia. The genealogical material of the Purāna as summarized by Thapar and compared to a summary of the OT genealogy is depicted in Fig. PRI.02.
    Observe the tripartite genealogical scheme: A is the primeval historical section in double lines of sages/kings; B is the branched genealogy section; and C returns to the linear genealogy. In both the Indian and the OT genealogies, A and B are demarcated by the great Flood and B and C are separated by the war—i.e., the Mahabharata War for the former and the war between YHWH and Pharaoh (cf. Exod 15:1–22) for the latter.
  1. Classical Tradition. Beside Berossus’ account of Babylonian history, we have the story of Deucalion and the flood, from which we can recover many elements of primeval history. The Latin tradition also preserves it in the story told by Ovid. The most striking example, however, is a brief scholiastic commentary on “the will of Zeus” (Iliad 1.5). V 5, p 466 In it we find a summary of a long-lost story whose outline is as follows: A. Problem—burdened earth, overpopulation
    B. First Threat—Zeus sends Theban War, many destroyed
    C. Second Threat—Zeus plans to destroy people by thunderbolts or flood. Momos dissuades Zeus from this plan
    D. Third Threat—Momos suggests that Thetis marry a mortal to create Achilles and that Zeus seduce Leda to create Helen of Troy. This results in the Trojan War
    E. Resolution—many destroyed: earth’s burden lightened

Although we may never know where and when the concept of the primeval history was conceived and developed, we find it earliest in Mesopotamian cuneiform literature, and traces of it in the OT and in the literature of India as well as Europe. Many other examples of this literary tradition may be hidden in other unexpected places.

Ball, I. J. 1972. A Rhetorical Study of Zephaniah. Diss., Graduate Theological Union.
Brueggemann, W. 1968. David and His Theologian. CBQ 30: 150–81.
Christensen, A. 1943. Les Types du Premier Home et du Premier Roi. Archives d’Etudes Orientales 14/2. Leiden.
Dijk, J. van. 1962. Die Inschriftenfunde. Vorlaeufinger Berich über die von der Notgemeinschaft der Dautchen Wissenshaft 18: 45.
Gunkel, H. 1895. Schöpfung und Chaos im Urzeit und Endzeit. Göttingen.
Hesse, E. W., and Kikawada, I. M. 1984. Jonah and Genesis 1–11. AJBI 10: 3–19.
Jacobsen, T. 1939. Sumerian King List. AS 11. Chicago.
Kikawada, I. 1974. Literary Conventions for Primeval History. AJBI 1: 3–21.
Kikawada, I., and Quinn, A. 1985. Before Abraham Was. Nashville.
Kilmer, A. 1972. The Mesopotamian Concept of Overpopulation and Its Solution as Reflected in the Mythology. Or 41: 160–77.
———. 1976. Speculations on Umul, the First Baby. AOAT 25: 265–70.
Kramer, S. 1968. The “Babel of Tongues”: A Sumerian Version. JAOS 88: 108–11.
Laessøe, J. 1956. The Atrahasis Epic: A Babylonian History of Mankind. BiOr 13: 90–102.
Lambert, W. G., and Millard, A. R. 1969. Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford.
Millard, A. R. 1967. A New Babylonian “Genesis” Story. TynBul 18: 1–18.
O’Flaherty, W. 1975. Hindu Myths. Harmondsworth.
Reiner, E. 1961. The Etiological Myth of the Seven Sages. Or 30: 1–11.
Thapar, R. 1976. Genealogy as a Source of Social History. The Indian Historical Review 4: 126.


Kikawada, I. M. (1992). Primeval History. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 5, p. 466). New York: Doubleday.

Matthew 15:1-9 NET Interlinear w/notes

Matthew 15:1–9 (NET) In Greek & English w/transliteration & notes

Breaking Human Traditions

15:1 Then Pharisees and experts in the law came from Jerusalem to Jesus and said,

15:2 “Why do your disciples disobey the tradition of the elders? For they don’t wash their hands when they eat.”

15:3 He answered them, “And why do you disobey the commandment of God because of your tradition?

15:4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.’

15:5 But you say, ‘If someone tells his father or mother, “Whatever help you would have received from me is given to God,”

15:6 he does not need to honor his father.’ You have nullified the word of God on account of your tradition.

15:7 Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said,

15:8 ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me,

15:9 and they worship me in vain,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

15:1 Then Pharisees1 and experts in the law2 ‹ came › from 
TotePharisaioikaigrammateis   proserchontaiapo
67.4711.4989.9253.94   15.7784.3
Jerusalem3 to Jesus and said,4 
Ἱεροσολύμων6τῷ3 Ἰησοῦ4λέγοντες10
Hierosolymōn tō Iēsou legontes
93.480 92.24 93.169 33.69
Sentence     ‶   Why do [TP your disciples TP] disobey the 
Διὰ1 τί2►6σου5οἱ3 μαθηταί4παραβαίνουσιν6τὴν7
Dia ti souhoi mathētaiparabainousintēn
89.26 92.14 92.692.24 36.3836.2892.24
tradition of the elders
paradosin tōnpresbyterōn
33.239 92.2453.77
Support     For they don’t wash their5 hands when they 
γὰρ12►13οὐ11νίπτονται13αὐτῶν16τὰς14 χεῖρας15ὅταν17ἄρτον18
gar ouniptontaiautōntas cheirashotanarton 
89.23 69.347.992.1192.24 8.3067.315.8 
eat.” ″6 
Sentence     [TP He TP] ‹ answered › them,7 
Sentence     ‶ [TP ‹+   And why do you +› TP] disobey the 
καὶ8Διὰ6 τί7►10ὑμεῖς9παραβαίνετε10τὴν11
kaiDia ti hymeisparabainetetēn
91.1289.26 92.14 92.736.2892.24
commandment of God because of your tradition
ἐντολὴν12τοῦ13 θεοῦ14διὰ15ὑμῶν18τὴν16 παράδοσιν17
entolēn tou theoudia hymōntēn paradosin
33.330 92.24 12.189.26 92.792.24 33.239
Support     [TP For God TP] said,8 
γὰρ21 θεὸς3εἶπεν4
garho theoseipen
89.2392.24 12.133.69
Sentence       Honor your father and mother9 
Τίμα5τὸν6πατέρα7καὶ8τὴν9 μητέρα10
Timatonpaterakaitēn mētera
87.892.2410.1489.9292.24 10.16
Bullet     and 
Sentence     [TP   Whoever insults his father or mother TP] must be 
HOkakologōn pateraēmētera  
92.2433.399 10.1489.13910.16  
put to death.’10 
θανάτῳ17 τελευτάτω18
thanatō teleutatō  
23.99 23.102  
Sentence     But [TP you TP] say
Sentence     [TP   If someone tells his father or mother   
ἂν5Ὃς4εἴπῃ6τῷ7πατρὶ89τῇ10 μητρί11
anHoseipēpatriētē mētri
71.892.2733.6992.2410.1489.13992.24 10.16
Whatever help you would have received from me is given TP] to God
hoōphelēthēs ean  exemou Dōron  
92.2735.2 71.8  90.1692.1 57.84  
          he does not need to honor his father.’12 
οὐ1 μὴ2τιμήσει3αὐτοῦ6τὸν4 πατέρα5
  ou mē  timēseiautouton patera
  69.5 69.5  87.892.1192.24 10.14
Sentence     You have nullified the word of God on 
καὶ7ἠκυρώσατε8τοῦ11τὸν9 λόγον10θεοῦ12διὰ13
kai ēkyrōsate touton logon theoudia
91.12 76.25 92.2492.24 33.98 12.190.8
account of your tradition
ὑμῶν16τὴν14 παράδοσιν15
  hymōntēn paradosin
  92.792.24 33.239
Sentence     ‹ Hypocrites! › Isaiah prophesied correctly about you
 when he said
Sentence     [TP ‹   This people › TP] honors me with their 
οὗτος31 λαὸς2τιμᾷ7με6►5τοῖς4
houtosHO laostimame tois
92.2992.24 11.5587.892.1 92.24
Sentence     [TP but their heart TP]13 is far from me
δὲ9αὐτῶν118 καρδία10ἀπέχει13πόρρω12ἀπʼ14ἐμοῦ15
deautōnhē kardiaapecheiporrōapʼemou
89.12492.1192.24 26.385.1683.3189.12292.1
Sentence     and they worship me in vain, 
de sebontaime matēn
89.94 53.5392.1 89.54
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” ″14 
didaskontes didaskalias entalmata anthrōpōn
33.224 33.236 33.330 9.1

1 sn See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.

2 tn Or “and the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.

3 map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4.

4 tn The participle λέγοντες (legontes) has been translated as a finite verb so that its telic (i.e., final or conclusive) force can be more easily detected: The Pharisees and legal experts came to Jesus in order to speak with him.

5 tc ‡ Although most witnesses read the genitive plural pronoun αὐτῶν (autōn, “their”), it may have been motivated by clarification (as it is in the translation above). Several other authorities do not have the pronoun, however (א B Δ 073 f1 579 700 892 1424 pc f g1); the lack of an unintentional oversight as the reason for omission strengthens their combined testimony in this shorter reading. NA27 has the pronoun in brackets, indicating doubts as to its authenticity.

6 tnGrk “when they eat bread.”

7 tnGrk “But answering, he said to them.”

8 tc Most mss (א*,2 C L W 0106 33 𝔐) have an expanded introduction here; instead of “For God said,” they read “For God commanded, saying” (ὁ γὰρ θεὸς ἐνετείλατο λέγων, ho gar theos eneteilato legōn). But such expansions are generally motivated readings; in this case, most likely it was due to the wording of the previous verse (“the commandment of God”) that caused early scribes to add to the text. Although it is possible that other witnesses reduced the text to the simple εἶπεν (eipen, “[God] said”) because of perceived redundancy with the statement in v. 3, such is unlikely in light of the great variety and age of these authorities (א1 B D Θ 073 f1, 13 579 700 892 pc lat co, as well as other versions and fathers).

9 sn A quotation from Exod 20:12; Deut 5:16.

10 sn A quotation from Exod 21:17; Lev 20:9.

11 tnGrk “is a gift,” that is, something dedicated to God.

12 tc The logic of v. 5 would seem to demand that both father and mother are in view in v. 6. Indeed, the majority of mss (C L W Θ 0106 f1 𝔐) have “or his mother” (ἢ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ, ē tēn mētera autou) after “honor his father” here. However, there are significant witnesses that have variations on this theme (καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ [kai tēn mētera autou, “and his mother“] in Φ 565 1241 pc and ἢ τὴν μητέρα [“or mother“] in 073 f13 33 579 700 892 pc), which is usually an indication of a predictable addition to the text rather than an authentic reading. Further, the shorter reading (without any mention of “mother”) is found in early and important witnesses (א B D sa). Although it is possible that the shorter reading came about accidentally (due to the repetition of -ερα αὐτοῦ), the evidence more strongly suggests that the longer readings were intentional scribal alterations. tnGrk “he will never honor his father.” Here Jesus is quoting the Pharisees, whose intent is to release the person who is giving his possessions to God from the family obligation of caring for his parents. The verb in this phrase is future tense, and it is negated with οὐ μή (ou mē), the strongest negation possible in Greek. A literal translation of the phrase does not capture the intended sense of the statement; it would actually make the Pharisees sound as if they agreed with Jesus. Instead, a more interpretive translation has been used to focus upon the release from family obligations that the Pharisees allowed in these circumstances. sn Here Jesus refers to something that has been set aside as a gift to be given to God at some later date, but which is still in the possession of the owner. According to contemporary Jewish tradition, the person who made this claim was absolved from responsibility to support or assist his parents, a clear violation of the Mosaic law to honor one’s parents (v. 4).

13 tn The term “heart” is a collective singular in the Greek text.

14 sn A quotation from Isa 29:13. Biblical Studies Press. (2005).

The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Mt 15:1–9). Biblical Studies Press.

Conjuctions- Daily Dose of Aramaic

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#24 Sa anong kalagayan ginawa ng Diyos sina Adan at Eba?


A. Ginawa Niya silang banal at masaya.

Tingnan ninyo, ito lamang ang aking natagpuan, na ginawang matuwid ng Diyos ang tao…

Ecclesiastes 7:29a ABAB

Malinaw na nakasaad sa Bibliya na matapos likhain ng Diyos ang lahat ng mga bagay kasama ang tao, nakita niya ang mga ito na napakabuti. Dahil ang Diyos ay mabuti, matuwid at banal, ang Kanyang nilkha ay banal at mabuti rin. Pinapakita ng Katekismo na walang kasamaan sa Diyos.

Bukod pa dito, makikita din natin ang kahalagahan ng pagiging banal at masaya. Maraming iniisip na ang pagiging banal ay walang kasiyahan. Pero dahil nilikha tayo ng Diyos na banal, ang maging banal tulad niya ay isang lubos na kasiyahan ng Kanyang mga tao.

Sa piling ng Diyos ay lubos na kasiyahan kasya sa anumang bagay sa mundo. Hindi natin maaaring ihiwalay ang tunay na kasiyahan sa kabanalan. Ang mga taong may tunay na kasiyahan ay lumalakad…

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Seeing and believing as Jesus passes by (Mark 10; Pentecost 22B)

An Informed Faith

The man sits on the ground, beside the road leading into Jericho. Sensing what was happening, who was passing by, what was being spoken about; unable to use his eyes, he was undoubtedly attentive through his listening ears, through the sounds he could hear, as well as the fragrances he could smell. Because of this, he knew the identity of the person passing by, so he calls out with confidence, “Jesus of Nazareth, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47).

Jesus pauses, engages with the man, and responds to his plea. “Go; your faith has made you well” (10:52). The man, all of a sudden, could see; all was clear, so he took his place among those following Jesus on the way (10:52).

The scene is familiar. Some chapters earlier, in Bethsaida, another blind man also engages with Jesus; and Jesus heals the man. “He saw everything clearly”…

View original post 889 more words