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Jubilees and Second Temple Judaism(s) III

August 25, 2011

In the second post of this series I gave a brief introduction to the book of Jubilees and its author

In a nutshell Jubilees is a ‘retelling’ of the story found in Genesis and the first part of Exodus. The author “reproduces the text verbatim. Occasionally he deletes what he does not find useful. Most typically, however, he recasts the narrative or elaborates on it to fit his interests and purposes. Many of his alterations serve to smooth out perceived difficulties or problems in the biblical text” (Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature Between the Bible and the Mishnah, 69).

Perhaps some of you wondered, “What does he mean by smoothing out perceived difficulties in Genesis?”

Here’s an example.

Most of you probably know this story: God puts Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and tells them to eat the fruit of every tree except one: The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God informs them that if they do eat from this tree that “surely they will die that very day.

So, it would seem to be a pretty dangerous tree to eat from, to say the least. Eat its fruit and die is pretty straight forward.

However, the serpent says to Eve, ““You will not die;  for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Therefore, there are competing consequences for eating the fruit. On the one hand, God stating that if Adam and Eve eat the fruit they will die, and on the other, the serpent suggesting they will not die if they eat the fruit, but actually gain God-like knowledge.

Now here’s the problem:  Adam and Eve eat the fruit but do not die that day. So, apparently, the serpent was telling the truth, and apparently, God lied!

The author of Jubilees was probably not the first reader to notice this problem, and he certainly wasn’t the last, but he had a brilliant resolution to the problem of Adam and Eve not dying on “that very day” built on Ps 90:4 and the ancient belief that one day is like a thousand years to God in heaven.

Adam died. . . and he lacked seventy years of one thousand years [that is, he died at the age of 930]. One thousand years are as a single day in the testimony of heaven; therefore it was written concerning the tree of knowledge, “On the day that you eat of it? you will die.” Jubilees 4:29-30

So there you go, because Adam did not live to a thousand years, Adam died on that very day in “God-time”! Problem solved.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 4xi0m permalink
    August 25, 2011 9:33 am

    Wow, that makes me wonder if the author of Jubilees was reincarnated as Harold Campling…

    • 4xi0m permalink
      August 25, 2011 9:34 am

      Camping. I can’t type. X_X

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