Remember my preference


Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI


Part IV: Remarkable Biblical Confirmations from Archaeology

Chapter 3

From Abraham to Abel: Fact or Fiction?


     IF THE PURPOSE of this Paper were merely to provide a summary review of the archaeological evidence in support of Scripture, it would not do to close with the fall of Jericho. We would have to go on to consider a host of other exciting discoveries of recent years -- the pit in which seventy slain men were thrown
(Jeremiah 41: 7),
(65) the tomb containing the remains of people to whom Paul refers in Romans 16:8, (66) and other equally dramatic finds such as are ably recorded by Joseph Free, Merrill Unger, and others. But this is not the purpose we have in mind.
     What we have been attempting to show is that, in a peculiar way, the earlier portions of Scripture have tended to be confirmed with even greater precision than many of the later stories. It is these earlier records with their extraordinary circumstantial detail which were formerly most discredited. The walls of Jericho did fall down "flat", and this after the Israelites had merely marched around the city a number of times. The waters of Jordan did "stand up in a heap". The quails (as we shall see in the appendix) did fly over the camp of the Israelites at a height of approximately three feet. There is nothing whatever in the story of Moses which any longer seems unlikely, and we have even more evidence that the same must be admitted of Joseph. When we come to Abraham, in one chapter alone (Genesis 14) so many details are given, each of which was a potential source of error, that it almost looks as though it was God's policy to make the earlier records more precisely capable of ultimate vindication than the later ones.

65.   See on this remarkable find, including possibly some of the skeletons (!), Garrow Duncan, The Accuracy of the Old Testament, S.P.C.K., London, 1930, pp.53-54.
66.  For a brief account of this, see A. Rendle Short, The Bible and Modern Research, Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London, no date, p.82.

     pg 1 of 16      

      But as we go back beyond Abraham, names and events are accumulated in ever increasing density until every single verse provides some new piece of information which is presented to the reader as though there could never be the slightest doubt about its historical reality. Other such ancient manuscripts become increasingly filled with mythological detail: we depart more and more from reality until we are in the presence of demigods and monsters and other such imaginary creations bordering upon fantasy. But not so with Scripture. If possible, the account becomes more factual, more like a simple straightforward chronicle of fact with every step taken back toward the beginning. The dividing of the nations after the Flood, the escape of Noah and his family chronicled like a modern ship's log, the building of the first cities, the invention of musical instruments and of technical arts, the first murder arising out of a circumstance which has been repeated throughout history and which bears the hallmark of plain truth, and suddenly we find ourselves in the presence of two very real and very human beings -- Adam and Eve. Where in this chain of events do we pass from fact into fantasy? The answer is, Nowhere. The transition is simply impossible to establish.
     Hitherto, archaeology seems to have found its greatest service in validating Scripture from the time of Abraham onward. Little has been found to carry the light of confirmation back beyond this. Is this because it is here that history begins and myth ends in Scripture? I think not. Although the evidence from archaeology applicable to pre-Abrahamic times is, in the nature of the case, less substantial than it is for subsequent ages, there is evidence nonetheless. Indeed, by its very nature, while less impressive in the minds of those who perhaps have not given the matter the thought it deserves, what evidence there is is all the more remarkable because of the circumstances. How could one expect to find archaeological evidence of events taking place before a Flood which virtually wiped out all that went before? Yet such evidence exists, and because of its sparseness it demands greater attention. Not all of it is archaeological in the sense that it results from excavation, yet indirectly we would not have most of this information were it not for archaeology. The evidence which we shall now examine, therefore, is only indirectly archaeological but is an important part of this Paper nonetheless. We shall work backward in this brief survey, extracting everything we can from the light we have at the present moment until it begins to fail us altogether. But when this has been done, we shall find ourselves virtually at the entrance to the Garden of Eden.

     pg.2 of 16     

     We have already noted the importance of the record of Abraham's antecedents as given in Genesis 11 insofar as they shed a wonderful light upon his relationship to Sarah. This chapter opens with the account of the proposed building of the Tower of Babel. There is no longer any doubt that such a tower was attempted. Nor is there much doubt that the agreement to make bricks in place of stone was exactly the kind of agreement these people would have reached, coming as they did from a region where stone was plentiful into one where it was very scarce indeed. That they were capable at this very early period of achieving the organization necessary for undertaking such a community effort is now unquestionable. Moreover, the level topography of southern Babylonia is such that a tower of sufficient height would serve those who were without other means of direction-finding as a landmark for rallying even after they had settled widely over the land (verse 4 -- so the Hebrew), exactly as the record implies. It would readily be seen from great distances whenever it became necessary to come together for defense or any other reason.
     In short, everything about this particular incident makes perfectly good sense in the light of what we know now. By a device of beautiful simplicity, God apparently miraculously accelerated the divergence of pronunciation and small shifts of meaning which we see occurring even today at a much slower rate which lead to the formation of dialects. Co-operative effort which depends so heavily upon free communication was rendered impossible between men who became effectively unintelligible to one another. In time, dialectic differences became language differences. And cuneiform, which was the means of written communication in use at that time, bears evidence of being a vehicle which has suffered considerable confusion, single ideographs often having a bewildering number of sound values. This is exactly what would happen if a group of people who shared these signs did actually, for some reason, begin to attach to them quite different values.
     This very fact was one of the reasons for the similar confusion of modern scholars when they first began to decipher ideographs. Their difficulties bore mute testimony to Genesis 11:7. The evidence for the confusion of language itself has been explored in another Paper, "The Confusion of Language" (Part V in vol.6, Time and Eternity) and will not be repeated here. But it may be stated with a reasonable measure of assurance that the

67. As an illustration, the simple sign has among its some twenty-two sound values the following: Ut, Ud, Tam, Par, and Hish! Imagine how many different ways a word could be pronounced when a single element in it could be any one of twenty-two such sounds!

     pg.3 of 16     

evidence for the truth of Genesis 11:1 increases daily, so that languages which were once thought to be absolutely unrelated are no longer held to be so. It becomes increasingly likely that linguists will find it possible to establish direct relationships between all known languages, ancient and modern, thereby demonstrating the truth stated here in Genesis 11:1 that all men once shared a common tongue.
     Genesis 11:2 states that the people who first settled in Babylonia came from the east, from Elam. There is no doubt, in the light of present knowledge, that this statement is absolutely correct. Subsequently there arose a powerful leader in this area by the name of Nimrod. At the present moment, it cannot be said for certain that he has been identified, although a number of possibilities exist, the most probable ones being that he is to be equated with either Merodach or Ningirshu, both of whom were later deified.
     The possible equation of this biblical character's name with Merodach is based on the supposition that the form "Merodach" is to be derived from a root meaning "to rebel", the consonants of which would be m-r-d. The prefix nin meaning "son of" would then give us a derived form signifying "son of rebellion" or some such compound as Nin-mirud, or simply Nimrod.
     The second possibility - -namely, that Nimrod is to be equated with Nin-gir-shu -- is based upon a statement (which I have not been able to verify) that according to Brunnow's "Classified List of Sumerian Ideographs," the signs read as gir-shu could also be read as mir-rud.
(68) According to Labat, the sound value mir can be read as gir, so that nim-gir could be nim-mir, thus accounting for the first part of Nimrod's name. The substitution of ud for shu I have not been able to verify. However, if Nimrod and Nin-gir-shu or Nim-gir-shu are alternatives, an interesting sidelight is shed upon this individual's history as the result of archaeological work undertaken in Nigeria.
     In the first place, the father of Nimrod was Cush, and the name "Cush" is applied to several localities (where presumably his descendants settled), one in Africa. In an article which deals with some magnificent Nigerian bronze heads, K. C. Murray, speaking of the Yoruba tribe where they originated, has this to say:

     Legends concerning the origins of the Yoruba seem to deal with the establishment of a ruling dynasty. It is believed that in the second millennium B.C. a people known as the Kishites [Cushites?] began to enter the Horn of Africa from Mesopotamia and later gradually spread westward. . . .  According to the account of Sultan Bello of Sokoto, the Yoruba were of the Tribe of Nimrod.

68.  Labat, Rene, ref.25, p.159.
69.  Murray, K. C., "Nigerian Bronzes," Antiquity (England), March, 1941, p.76.

     pg.4 of 16     

     It is customary in reading cuneiform to replace the weak letter n at the end of a syllable by doubling the next consonant or by lengthening the vowel which precedes it. Thus Nin-gir-shu would tend to be pronounced as "Nigger-shu", or "Nyger-shu". It may very well be that we have here not only the origin of the word "Nigeria" (pronounced with a long i), but even of the form "nigger", for the native of Africa. The only representations of Nimrod of which I am aware are those given by Hislop, where he is shown as negroid. (70)
     According to R. D. Dennett,
(71) the Yoruba tribe claims that the founder of their race had a wife whose name meant "child of brass". And if we go back a little farther in the line of Ham, the father of Nimrod, we finally arrive at an individual who was said to have originated the art of working metals, iron and brass. In Genesis 4:22 his name is given as Tubal-Cain; although the name does not appear in this form in antiquity, R. J. Forbes, (72) one of the outstanding authorities on metallurgy in antiquity, points out that Cain means "smith". According to the same author, one of the tribes long associated with metal working in the ancient world was the Tibareni, whom many scholars identify with Tubal, the l and r being interchangeable.
     We may go one step further in this by noting the fact that the name of the individual who came to be constituted the god of the Tiber (a clearly related word) was Vulcan. To my mind there is very little doubt that Tubal-Cain is the earliest form of the name "Vulcan", which in its later stages was merely shortened by the omission of the Tu-. In his commentary on Genesis, Marcus Dods
(73) points out that everything is so faithfully perpetuated in the East that the blacksmith of the village Bubbata-ez-zetua referred to the iron "splinters" struck off while working at his forge as "tubal". Is it entirely a coincidence that we should refer to an iron worker as a blacksmith, (74) in view of the fact that these Hamitic people, themselves probably dark-skinned, seem to have been the initial workers in iron?

70.  Hislop, Alexander, The Two Babylons, Partridge, London, 1903, pp.44, 47.
71.  Dennett, R. D., Nigerian Studies, London, 1910, p.75.
72.  Forbes, R. J., Metallurgy in Antiquity, Brill, Leiden, 1950, pp.97, 88.
73.  Dods, Marcus, Genesis, Clark, Edinburgh, no date, p.26, footnote.
74.  It is, of course, possible that the colour of the metal is in view. But all other smiths are named for the metal they work, i.e., coppersmith, tinsmith.

     pg.5 of 16     

     Now, the traditions regarding Vulcan are rather interesting. He is, of course, associated with fire and the working of metals, later appearing as the divine smith of the Roman Tubilustrum. (75) He is said to have been a cripple, having been thrown out of heaven by Jupiter as a punishment for having taken the part of his mother in a quarrel which occurred between them. (76)
     In Genesis 4:23 there is a rather extraordinary story of how Lamech took vengeance on a young man for wounding him. Lamech's son was Tubal-Cain, perhaps none other than Vulcan subsequently deified. In the brief account in Genesis it is stated that Lamech had two wives, one of whom was named Zillah. Let us suppose, for a moment, that it was with Zillah that Lamech had quarreled and that Tubal-Cain, son of Zillah, took his mother's part and got into a fight with his father, Lamech. Whatever happened to Lamech is not clear, although he appears to have been wounded; but Tubal-Cain himself was injured sufficiently to become thereafter a lame man. Now, it is customary in a society where a man may have more than one wife to name each child, not after the father, but after the mother, since this obviously assures more precise identification. Thus any child of Zillah, besides having a personal name, would also be known as "Son of Zillah". If language at this time was some form of Semitic, this alternative name would very probably have become Bar-Zillah, i.e., son of Zillah. But custom early established the principle that names ending in -ah were reserved for females, the masculine form later ending in the letter -u, as it does in Assyrian and Babylonian masculine forms. Tubal-Cain would therefore quite possibly receive a second name, "Bar-Zillu."
     The remarkable thing is that the Sumerian word for "iron" is just this barzillu, or parzillu, thus accounting for a word that has long puzzled Sumeriologists. The metal may simply have been named after the one who first discovered how to work it!
     We could therefore have here incidental but striking testimony to the persistence of a tradition of a series of events which carry us right back beyond the Flood to Lamech's son, Tubal-Cain, the father of all that work in brass and iron. His name, his art, his relation to one of Lamech's wives, and his probable fate after wounding his father in defense of his mother, are thus all reflected in this chain of traditional lore which by its very artlessness bears all the more impressive testimony to the truth of these early records of a period written almost within the

75.  Forbes, R. J., ref.72, p.90. Also H. J. Rose, "The Cult of Vulcan at Rome," Journal of the Royal Society, vol.23, 1933, p.46.
76.  See T. Bulfinch, The Age of Fable, Heritage Press, New York, 1942, pp.7-8.

     pg.6 of 16     

lifetime of Adam himself. Even Lamech's polygamy is indirectly confirmed by the fact that Tubal Cain's other name identified him, not as the son of Lamech, but as the son of one of his wives -- by naming which wife in particular.
     Putting all these things together, one has a remarkable series of fragments of tradition in which there is a continuity of name-forms, all related in meaning or association and wrapped up in a trade of very ancient origin, attached to a deity who had the strange experience of being ejected from his home and rendered lame for taking his mother's part
(77) and who thereafter lent his title, "Son of Zillah", to the Sumerian people as their word for iron.
     These same Sumerian people, in spite of paintings in which they are portrayed in reconstructions as having had bronzed faces, always referred to themselves as black-headed ones,
(78) and are indeed spoken of by other people as black-headed, (79) while their relatives in the Indus Valley were similarly termed black and noseless (!) by the white Aryans who conquered them. The very word "Ham" means "burned" or "dark", and while Ham's descendants were certainly not all black (witness the "yellow" Mongols, "red" Indians, and "brown" Malays), it seems that the traditions of iron-working were kept particularly within the circle of black people, so that Africa became the instructor of Indo-Europeans in the art of metalworking. It seems possible that they may have preserved some of this traditional lore and classed themselves as Hamites, or "Al Hami", and that in our word "alchemy" (hence, chemistry) we have still some faint recollection of this tenuous thread of unbroken history from Tubal-Cain down to modern times.
     The brief picture we are given of Nimrod in Genesis 10:9-12 suggests a warlike individual of considerable energy who established the world's first kingdom by military conquest, thus expanding his sovereignty from a base in Babylonia in southern Mesopotamia by invading Assyria (the Asshur of Gen. 10:11) to the north. I believe the Revised Standard Version is more correct in its rendering of this verse. Nimrod there built what appear to have been several provincial capitals, of which Nineveh was one. Archaeology shows that Assyria in the north was first settled by Semites, who entered it from the north and west and then were conquered from

77.  Kramer, S., From the Tablets of Sumer, Falcon's Wing Press, New York 1956, p.60.
78.  So in the Code of Hammurabi, Deimel's Transcription, 1930, R24, line 11 Sennacherib's Prism (col.1, line 15) refers to the related Canaanites in the same way. Since his hair was black, it is hardly likely he is referring merely to hair colour only.
79.  Piggott, S., Prehistoric India, Pelican Books, Hammondworth, England, 1950, p.261.

     pg.7 of 16     

the south. In this way one ruler united the northern Semites and the southern Hamites (Sumerians), the amalgam resulting in the rise of an extraordinarily complex civilization from which European civilization has unknowingly drawn so much of its inspiration. The events outlined in these four verses are factual history in miniature.
     Beyond these observations, Genesis 10 will not be examined here in any detail since it is the subject matter of another Doorway Paper ("A Study of the Names in Genesis 10," Part II in Noah's Three Sons, vol.1). But it may be said broadly that it presents in graphic form a picture of the relationships between the ancient nations of the world which has at no point been found to be in error. In fact, the subgroups of nations which are presented as "families" could have supplied a key to ethnologists if they had cared to accept it, which would have allowed them to advance their science far more rapidly than they were able to do -- though they have reached virtually the same basic conclusions by alternative methods. Generally speaking, the nations of the earth (verse 32) are considered as three family groups. Anthropologists and ethnologists have never improved upon this enumeration. The only modifications proposed have been the raising to "racial status" of certain comparatively small segments of the world's population -- such as the Australian aborigines who seem to combine features of both the negroid and the Caucasoid racial stocks.
     While this may not appear a very impressive testimony to Scripture, it should be borne in mind that when this Table of Nations was written, it was not customary to recognize people of totally strange nations as even "human". Such people were less than human beings -- much as the Nazis looked upon the Jewish people as less than human. Even today primitive people refer to themselves, in terms of their own language of course, as "men" or "people"; all others are less than men.
(80) It was a bold step indeed -- and an inspired one -- which led the writer to credit, not merely neighbours, but even enemies to the same ancestors as themselves. This was surely a remarkable Charter of Nations recognizing the brotherhood of man through the fatherhood of Noah. It is even more amazing that the lines of brotherhood are traced so accurately.

80.  Thus the Naskapi Indians of Canada call themselves Nenenot, meaning "real people". The Eskimos call themselves Innuit, which has the same meaning. According to Murdock, Hottentots term themselves Khoi-Khoi, "men of men", i.e., "real men". The name Chukchee of the Siberian people studied by Bogoras means "men". According to Coon, the term Yahgan means men "par excellence" -- rather ironical in that they are a tribe of Terra del Fuegians whom Darwin felt were scarcely human at all! Andamanese Islanders call themselves Onge, meaning similarly "men" or "people".

     pg.8 of 16     

Figure 15. Mesopotamian sites showing flood deposits.

From Genesis 6 to 9 we have the record of the Flood. If the Flood was universal in a global sense, then we shall not find archaeological evidence of it, but only geological. Many people believe this is exactly what we have. For those of us who believe it was universal only in the destruction of mankind and the animals who shared his habitat, the catastrophe did not completely obliterate the remains of prior civilization. In spite of the fact that Genesis 11 indicates, and archaeology supports, the movement of the first settlers in Mesopotamia after the Flood as having been from the East so that they must previously have been elsewhere than in the Mesopotamian Plains, many people believe that Noah's Flood occurred in Mesopotamia. Accordingly, they are predisposed to accept very readily the evidence presented by Childe and others for an inundation of no mean size which apparently put a temporary end to civilization in the earlier period of Ur's history. When evidence of a similar nature was observed in other neighbouring cities of the Plain, it was felt that archaeology had indeed vindicated the biblical Flood.
     However, it can be shown, unfortunately, that these beds of apparently water-laid silt, though of considerable depth, were exceedingly local and in no way disturbing the continuity of life in neighbouring cities. Such inundations were therefore more in the nature of "flash floods" which caused the local people to abandon their homes and to desert the sites affected for some considerable time. The diagrammatic chart of this so-called Flood evidence (see Figure 15)
(81) will show how local these disturbances really were and how widely spaced in time. Not one Flood, but several floods are therefore involved here.

81. From Andre Parrot, The Flood and Noah's Ark, SCM Press, London, 1955, p.52.

     pg.9 of 16     

     Nevertheless, whatever its actual range, Noah's Flood was of sufficient magnitude that mankind never forgot it. Flood traditions are found all over the world, and in certain essentials the concordance of their detail is very remarkable indeed. (82)
     Occasionally it has been argued that this worldwide distribution of traditions is clear evidence of a worldwide flood. Unfortunately, if this were the case, it would not be a vindication of the biblical story but a challenge to it in one of its most important aspects. Worldwide traditions � if each represented a recollection of the event as experienced in that particular part of the world � would imply survivors all over the world; but Scripture says that eight human beings alone survived the catastrophe.
     The Flood story is factual in its presentation, reading very much like a ship's log. There is no doubt that only eight people came out of the ark and that from them was the earth re-peopled. Genesis 10 assumes this as a fact and leaves no question in the reader's mind that the writer intended it to be understood that all the world's people find their origin within the families of Noah's three sons.
     And so we move back into antediluvian times. Genesis 5 is concerned chiefly with a genealogy leading from Adam to Noah. It has frequently been pointed out that the cuneiform literature agrees in that this span of years occupies the lifetime of only ten persons. The ages achieved by these antediluvian patriarchs are far, far in excess of current age expectancies. It has been proposed, therefore, either that we are misinterpreting the figures or that the figures have been artificially enlarged in an effort to give the same kind of heroic dimensions to these characters as their counterparts in ancient pagan literature, or that they are simply the work of some primitive scribe who had no idea what large numbers really signified.
     Archaeology has probably recovered nothing tangible which sheds light on the civilization of pre-Flood times. But post-Flood cuneiform tablets in great numbers have been found which often confirm the biblical details of this period. Among these are several king lists giving us the names and lengths of reign of those who ruled from "Adam" to "Noah".
     The names do not precisely coincide with those listed in Genesis 5, but the number of generations seems to be similar. In some lists there are only eight kings, in others ten, to be compared with the ten antediluvial patriarchs of Genesis. Various attempts have been made to demonstrate essential identity of most of the

82.  See "Flood Traditions of the World," Part II in The Flood: Local or Global?, vol.9 of The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publication Company. 

     pg.10 of 16     

individuals in these cuneiform king lists, and from other tablets we gather some details of the lives of certain of them which strongly encourage the view that they are indeed the same people even when their names look different. One major problem has been the time spans involved, many of them having reputedly ruled for fifty to sixty thousand years according to current translations of these texts. One text shows the ten of them to have ruled a total of 345,000 years, another 432,000 years. Some suggestions have been made about these figures; for example, that they represent dynasties rather than individual reigns, but cultural remains in the area for such vast periods of time are lacking.
     An alternative is to re-interpret the value of the unit of measurement upon which these enormous spans of time are based. This unit is the Saros, which has been taken to signify a period of 3,600 years. But the Saros has a shorter value,
(83) which if applied to the same figures reduces them to something rather closer to the figures given in Geneses 5. This value is 18 years, 11 days, and 8 hours. On the basis of the lesser value -- and I know of no inherent reason why it should not have been taken into consideration -- the cuneiform records approach much more nearly to the biblical record. The lower figure provides us with a remarkably close total period from Adam to Noah. It is slightly longer than the period as calculated on the basis of the Hebrew text, and very nearly the same as the figures given in the Septuagint texts (Alexandrian and Vatican) and in the works of Josephus. This general order of agreement is a remarkable witness to the essential consistency of ancient tradition on the subject. The reasons for preferring the figures given in the biblical text to those given in the Septuagint versions mentioned is considered in some detail in the Doorway Paper entitled "Longevity in Antiquity and Its Bearing on Chronology" (Part I in The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, vol.5 in The Doorway Papers Series).

*     *     *     *    

83.  Saros: On this question, see F. A. Jones, The Dates of Genesis, Kingsgate Press, London, 1909, p.50. Also some valuable comments by Franke Parker, Chronology, Henry and Parker, Oxford, 1858, especially p.790. Also an extraordinary work entitled Palmoni, by an anonymous (Jewish?) author who discusses the long and short values of the Saros and favours the short value of eighteen years and ten or eleven days. The full title of this volume of 680 pages is Palmoni: An Essay on the Chronological and Numerical System in Use Among the Jews, Longmans, Brown, Green, and Longmans, London, 1851, p.10. 

     pg.11 of 16     

     We now find ourselves almost within sight of the Garden of Eden without having discovered any point in this retracing of biblical history at which to say with any confidence, "Beyond this, we are in the realm of mythology." So far nothing has the air of mythology. And if anything, chapter 4 of Genesis is even more matter-of-fact.
     We have already dealt in part with some of the characters in this chapter: Lamech, Zillah, and Tubal-Cain. We have seen that even the name of Lamech's second wife seems to have been preserved for us in the ancient word for iron, parzillu. In due time, it is quite possible that we shall recognize Jabal, the first cattleman and tent-dweller, and Jubal, the father of music. In fact, I would venture to predict that God did not preserve these names (the chapter is full of them) through all these centuries of history without at the same time preserving somewhere -- yet to be discovered -- evidence of their existence as real persons. It is a "rule" in scientific research that one sees largely what one is looking for and is very apt to miss much that is significant simply because the mind is not attending carefully. It is sometimes said that Nature does not provide us with data but capta. There are very few "givens" -- or perhaps one should say, everything is given, but the mind takes note only of selected groups of factors out of the whole. These "takens" (or capta) are what we blithely term "data". In a very similar way, the scholar is provided with hundreds of thousands of bits and pieces of information from existing cuneiform tablets and inscriptions and from a vast untapped accumulation of traditional lore among primitive and not-so-primitive people. Within this wealth of material there may very well be the supportive evidence which would bear testimony to the reality of these other ancient worthies, if we were only perceptive enough to find them or believing enough to make the search. Unfortunately those best qualified for this kind of research are by their faith, as a rule, least likely even to look for the evidence or recognize it for what it is if they should stumble upon it by accident.
     Moreover, it sometimes has happened that even when this kind of evidence has appeared, it has not been given the recognition it should have because, of all people, scholars tend to be most sensitive to the good opinion of their colleagues and are afraid of the ridicule which sometimes attends discoveries strongly confirming some aspect of Scripture. This may account, I think, for the fact that evidence from archaeology has appeared in support of the statement made in Genesis 4:17 that Cain built a city, by implication the first one to be built, and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch, and yet this evidence has scarcely received any notice. And this, in spite of the fact that it carries us so far back in the biblical record that we are only one generation from the first human pair.

     pg.12 of 16   

     The evidence to which I refer is indirect in one sense, yet remarkable nonetheless. In the nature of the case, wherever a man and his family settled at the beginning, that territory would tend to become named after him. Consequently a single name might apply either to a country or to an individual. To distinguish in cuneiform literature whether the name referred to the individual or to the place, it became customary to add either before or after the word an identifying sign, the sign for man or place. The sign for man was written before the name; the sign for place was added after. The same procedure was followed with respect to cities which, naturally enough (and as we shall see in Genesis), were often named after some person of distinction. Thus the name "Cush" in Scripture is both the name of an individual and the name of at least one area of land -- probably of several areas. In Hebrew there is no device for distinguishing which is intended, but in cuneiform there is.
     There is, therefore, an almost universal custom of putting the cuneiform sign , (-ki) after the name of a city. I say "almost" because there is one notable exception. Whenever the name "Uruk" is mentioned, the determinative or identifying sign -ki was sometimes omitted.
(84) Why is this? Well, the city Uruk is also written in the cuneiform literature as Unuk and this form is identified without question with the name Enoch. According to Scripture, therefore, this city Unuk or Uruk was the first to be built and it follows that it would not, at the very beginning, be thought of as a "city", because to be so distinguished there would have to have existed, prior to it, other similar congregations of buildings in order to constitute it one of a class. The concept "city" would arise after it was built, not at the very moment it was built. And being the very first one in existence, it would become, quite naturally, the City, identified uniquely: indeed it might well be referred to -- as London is by Londoners -- as The City. At any rate, the exceptional circumstance which led to the habit of writing this name without the determinative for city is most logically accounted for if we assume it was indeed the first one ever.
     Now obviously the City which Cain built and named after his son Enoch must have been destroyed by the Flood, so that the physical entity itself has probably disappeared. As so often happens in history, the City was re-founded elsewhere, i.e., in Mesopotamia, receiving once more its original name. Perhaps if these re-builders

84.  Uruk: on this point, see John Urquhart, "The Bearing of Recent Oriental Discoveries on Old Testament History," Transactions of the Victorian Institute, vol.38, 1906, p.48; and W. St. Chad Boscawen, The Bible and the Monuments, Evre and Spottswoode, London, 1896, p.94.

     pg.13 of 16    

had followed our pattern, they would have referred to it as "New Uruk"! But though the original city was lost sight of, the special significance of the name was not, for in due time the very word "Unuk" ceased to be a name only and became also a word meaning "city". In later cuneiform, this same word became "Ereck" and it survives to this day as "Warka". Subsequently the word appeared in Asia Minor, not as Wark-- but as Perg-, where it is to be seen in the name "Pergamos", for example. This form of the word for "city" travelled up into Europe with some variations, becoming in due time -burg, -burgh, and -borough. It is also interesting to note that in Greek the word took the form purgos () meaning a "tower" -- a fact of added significance in the light of Genesis 11:4, which equates the building of a city with the building of a tower. Nor does the association end here, for the word "tower" came through into other Indo-European languages in the form of "tour" and its cognate in English, "town."
     In short, a simple statement is made in Genesis 4 to the effect that Cain built the first city and named it after his son, Enoch. History shows an unbroken line of evidence associating the idea of a city with this word "Enoch". This is a remarkable confirmation, after so many thousands of years of history, of the biblical statement set forth with such artless simplicity.
     There is one further line of inquiry which may perhaps be allowed here, though -- like a number of other inclusions -- it is not strictly archaeological. A remarkable number of traditions associate the building of some particular city of prominence with two brothers, one of whom invariably is killed by the other -- usually out of envy. This, of course, is true of the building of Rome, where Romulus and Remus are the leading characters. Lenormant has a considerable section of his famous study, The Beginnings of History,
(85) devoted to traditions which he believes are relevant. His attitude toward Scripture is not altogether satisfying, because he holds the view that the story of Cain and Abel and the subsequent building of the first city by the former are not so much original records but shared myths purified to be consonant with the spirit of the rest of Scripture. However, his remarks are interesting, for he shows how widespread the association was in ancient times. Moreover, Lenormant believes that from some basic truth underlying these traditions originated the practice in later years of performing a human sacrifice when founding any city or prominent building. He acknowledges at the same

85.  Lenorrnant, F., The Beginnings of History, Scribner's, New York., 1891, pp.149 ff.

     pg.14 of 16     

time that the record of Genesis is quite unlike the form taken by parallel traditions, in that the leading characters, including Cain's immediate descendants (Tubal, Lamech, etc.), are presented as ordinary men with
not the slightest evidence of any inclination to deify them. Although he does not admit it, this distinction would surely greatly strengthen the claim of those who believe in Scripture as the inspired Word of God that these writers were overruled, not only in what they said, but how they presented it. Archaeology has on a number of occasions borne witness to this practice of human sacrifice when laying the foundations of ancient buildings of importance.
    The light of archaeology is not quite exhausted yet. The recovery of the most ancient of languages in history � Assyrian, Babylonian, and finally Sumerian -- has brought to our attention one further interesting piece of evidence that takes us as far as Abel. It turns out -- as perhaps might have been expected if all existing languages once began from a common root -- that certain words fundamental to society itself are shared by Semites, Hamites (in the biblical sense), and Indo-Europeans or Japhethites. Such words as denote family relationships, personal pronouns, and smaller numbers fall in this category. The word for "son" is an interesting example. But in order to explore this meaningfully, it is necessary first to set forth very briefly the kind of phonetic changes commonly found when words of one language group are shared by another language group.
     The letters b, f, m, p, ph, v, and sometimes w are interchangeable: thus mit in German is with in English; fire in English is pur in Greek; marmo in Italian is marble in English; amelu (meaning "a person") in Assyrian is awilum in Babylonian; and so on.
     In a similar way l, n, and r are interchangeable: thus, for example, castrum in Latin becomes castle in English. An excellent example of all three letters being interchangeable appears in the words harrister, baluster, and bannister. The list could be extended indefinitely.
     Now the word for son in French is fils. In Latin this appears as puer � the r reverting to an l sound in the feminine form puella. In Hebrew, the terminal consonants are replaced by h and n respectively, as in Benjamin. In Aramaic, ben appears as bar, as in Bar-abbas. Going back beyond Aramaic to the Assyrian, we come to the form pilu. It appears in the familiar name Tiglath-pil-eser. In Babylonian, this is found as aplu, and when we go further back still to the Sumerian, the form is abel or apil, and sometimes as ibila. 

     pg.15 of 16     

     Although this kind of philology involves risks and has been carried to absurd extremes, there is no doubt that all these forms are actually related. As we have already noted in another connection, the word parzillu is almost certainly a construct which means "the son of Zillah". Thus very, very early in history the form par for "son" and the form abil are both in use � indeed, they are really alternative methods of pronouncing the terminal consonants which signify the word son. This essential word has never been lost sight of and is still with us today, though in English it appears as an adjective, filial. The significant fact in all this is that the child whom Adam and Eve must have looked upon as really their son received the name "Abel". In other words, this name by which they called the child became thereafter a generic word standing for "sonship", just as the name of the first city became a generic word for cities thereafter. There are reasons why I believe Cain was never really thought of by Adam and Eve in this way, but they are not properly part of this paper. It was not Cain's name, but Abel's which has been preserved throughout history as a prototype for all succeeding sons.
     This seems, at the moment, as far as we can go. It is true that cuneiform tablets have provided us with parallels to the story of Eden. But none of them are truly parallel, for they all are characterized by fantasy, where the gods quarrel with one another over newly created man, and even man himself appears as something more than man. Scripture alone presents us with a picture of two truly human people behaving exactly as we might behave ourselves � the only exceptional circumstance really being the part played by the serpent. Perhaps one day we shall understand this, too. To those who have known the Lord personally, the rest of the story is not really exceptional. Certainly, from the very first there is every indication that we are intended to take the narrative in a very literal sense; as Adam and Eve pass out of this Garden of God, they assume the dimensions of ordinary people, and the events of their lives lead naturally and without any evident break into the lives of their immediate descendants � and history is in the making. 

     pg.16 of 16     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved


Previous Chapter                                                                      Next Chapter

Home | Biography | The Books | Search | Order Books | Contact Us