Genesis v. 3-5.

June 28, 2010

And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begot a son to his own image and likeness, and called his name Seth.  And the days of Adam, after he begot Seth, were eight hundred years: and he begot sons and daughters.  And all the time that Adam lived came to nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.

3-5. Various difficulties.

Cornelius: “Note first: From Adam up to the flood, through Seth, are ten generations: this is the first age of the world.

“Note second: These years were of twelve months, as are ours, as Gen. viii. 5. makes plain; for if each year was monthly, as some hold (if one year had been only one month, with thirty days), it would follow that those whom we read here to have begotten in their seventy-fifth year, would have begotten in their seventy-fifth month, and consequently would have begotten in the seventh year of their age; and finally all of them would have died before reaching the age of eighty-two, which even today not a few exceed.  Thus St. Jerome and St. Augustine, lib. XV De Civitate Dei cap. XII.  I acknowledge that for the ancient Egyptians a year was a month.  This is related by Diodorus Siculus, lib. I; Varro to Lactantius, lib. II, cap. XIII; Plutarch in Numa; St. Augustine, lib. XII De Civitate Dei cap. XX, et Proclus, in Timæum, lib. I, page 33:[1] Αἰγύπτιοι τὸν μῆνα ἐνιαυτὸν ἐκάλουν: the Egyptians called a month a year.  But we find nothing of this sort among the ancient Hebrews.[2]

[Cf. Bl. Anne Emmerich: “I saw, though, how already by the time Semiramis arrived in Memphis they had turned completely to pride and confusion in their reckoning of time.  They always wanted to appear the most ancient people and made a crowd of confused times and races of kings.  In so doing they came away completely from all true reckoning of time, and because they repeatedly altered their reckonings they knew scarcely any other.  Accordingly it came about that they sought to make each error eternal through great buildings and great inscriptions, through which the confusion could first become solidified.  So for a long time they reckoned the ages of their forefathers and posterity so that it was as if the day on which the father died was the day the son was born.  The kings, who always fought with the priests over the reckoning of time, inserted ancestors of theirs that had never lived; also, the four kings with the same name, who reigned at the same time in Thebes, Heliopolis, Memphis and Sais, were placed one after the other.  I also saw that once a year was reckoned as having 970 days, and then again years were counted like months.  I also saw an idolatrous priest make a calculation, where for 500 years he always got 1100.

“I saw these false calculations and the efforts of the idolatrous priests at the Sabbath-teaching in Aruma, where Jesus spoke before the Pharisees of Abraham’s call and his arrival in Egypt, and against the Egyptian reckoning of time.  Jesus said to the Pharisees, that the world was now 4028 years old; and when I heard Jesus say this, He Himself was thirty-one years old” (Die Sünde und ihre Folgen, 9. Semiramis).]

Cornelius: “Third, it is clear from the Hebrew text, and from our Latin version, that from Adam to the flood were 1656 years.  Thus St. Jerome, St. Bede and St. Augustine supra.  Hence an error must have crept into the Septuagint, which counts 2242 years (according to the edition corrected by Cardinal Caraffa); for this number exceeds the truth by 586 years.  St. Augustine suspects that someone ill-informed changed the number in the Septuagint, because he thought that here years ought to be taken as months; for it seems unusual and paradoxical that men could have lived then for 900 real years.  But he also saw that there could be an objection to this: if years had been months, in that case those said to have begotten in their hundredth year, would have begotten in their eighth year according to us: and so, to avoid this, he put 200 for 100 …

“You ask, why was it that men at that time were so long-lived?  Pererius gives various reasons: first, there was a primeval goodness of complexion and temperament of body in the first men; second, there was sobriety, which was such that they used neither meat nor wine; third, it was the first vigor of the earth, of fruits and other foods, which from the beginning of their creation were much more lively and succulent and efficacious than now, when they have produced offspring; fourth, Adam had knowledge, which he shared with others, by which he knew better than our doctors the power of herbs, fruits, metals, etc.; fifth, there was a favorable aspect, course and influence of the stars; sixth, there was the will of God and His hidden cooperation, so that men might propagate more rapidly, and through long experience learn thoroughly all the sciences and arts, and so that the first men could pass on the faith in the creation of things and the knowledge and worship of God even to their very remote descendants.  Whence Lipomanus attributes this longevity more to a miracle of God than to nature” (Commentaria, pp 125-126).

St. Augustine: “Accordingly no prudent judge should doubt that Cain was able to found, not just any city, but in truth a large one, when the life of mortals was stretched out into so long a time: unless perhaps an infidel should bring in a question for us from the very abundance of years for which it is written that men lived at that time in our writers, and should refuse to believe this.  In the same way, they also do not believe that human bodies were much bigger then than they are now.  Whence their most noble poet Virgil writes of an enormous stone, fixed at the edge of a field, which a strong man of their times, struggling, seized, and ran, and twisted, and threw, that scarcely twelve chosen men could put upon their necks, with the human bodies the earth now produces (Æneid lib. xii, v. 899-900), showing that the earth was then accustomed to produce larger bodies.  How much more, therefore, would this be true than in relatively recent ages of the world, before that well-known and important flood? … Pliny the second, a most learned man, testifies that the more the onset of ages goes by, the smaller are the bodies that nature produces.  He mentions that even Homer often lamented this in song, and does not deride this as a poetic invention, but  takes it on historical faith as a writer on natural marvels (Hist. natur. lib. 7, cap. 16).  It is true, as I said, that the great size of ancient human bodies brings it about that many bones are found, because they are long-lasting, even in much later ages.  But the number of years for which men lived in those times cannot now be tested by any such proofs.  But nevertheless faith in this sacred history is not to be disparaged; our refusal of belief in the things it narrates would be all the more shameless because of the certainty of the fulfillment of the things it foretold.  The same Pliny also says that there is still a people who live to two hundred years.  If, therefore, it is believed that there are lengths of human lives that we have not experienced still existing in places unknown to us today, why should it not be believed that they also existed in times unknown to us?  Or is it credible that something could be true in another place that is not true here, and incredible that something could have been true at another time that is not true now?” (De civitate Dei, XV. ix.).

“Someone will therefore say: Are we to believe that men begat children, without having continence proposed to them, only at the age of one hundred or older – or according to the Hebrews not much less; that is, for eighty, seventy, sixty years they did not apply themselves to the task of begetting children; or if they did so apply themselves, were unable to generate children?  This question is solved in two ways.  Either puberty occurred later, corresponding to the greater length of the whole life: or, what I think is more credible, it is not the first-born sons who are recorded here, but those whom the order of succession required so as to reach Noe, from whom in turn we see Abraham reached … Because the writer of the sacred history had for his purpose to arrive at, through successive generations at the recorded times, the birth and life of Noe, during whose life the flood occurred, he records, not those who were first born to their parents, but those who came into the order of this propagation.

“As an example, by which this will become clearer, I will insert something here so that nothing of what I say can possibly be doubted.  The Evangelist Matthew, wishing to commit to memory the generation of Our Lord’s flesh through the series of his ancestors, beginning with father Abraham, and intending first to arrive at David, says: Abraham begot Isaac.  Why did he not say, Ismael, whom Abraham begot first?  And Isaac, he says, begot Jacob: why did he not say, Esau, who was his firstborn?  Because he obviously could not arrive at David through them.  Then follows: And Jacob begot Judas and his brethren: was Judas the firstborn?  Judas, he says, begot Phares and Zara: again, neither of these twins was Judas’s firstborn, but he had already fathered three before them.  And so St. Matthew holds in the order of generation those through whom he can arrive at David, and from him at Our Lord.  From which it may be understood, that the ancient men before the flood also recorded, not their firstborn, but those through whom the order of succeeding generations might be led to the patriarch Noe – lest the obscure and unnecessary question of their later puberty tire us” (ibid., xv. 1, 2.).

5. Adam’s death.

Cornelius: “Fourth, Adam died in the fifty-seventh year of Lamech, Noe’s father, 726 years before the flood, and saw the propagation and corruption of the whole human race stemming from him.  St. Irenæus adds, lib V, cap. xxxii. [immediately infra], that Adam died on the sixth day, Friday; for on that same day Adam was created, and sinned.  Now the Lord had said to him: In what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death; therefore he died on Friday, on which he sinned.[3] It is true that this warning by God has another sense, as I have said earlier.

St. Irenæus: “If anyone wishes to learn diligently on which of the seven days Adam died, he shall find it from the Lord’s disposition.  For the Lord recapitulated the whole man in Himself, from beginning to end, and thus recapitulated Adam’s death.  And so it is manifest, that the Lord suffered death on that day in obedience to the Father, on which Adam died [i.e. by sinning] in disobedience to God.  Now the day he died was the same as that on which he ate.  For God said: On the day you shall eat of it, you shall die the death.  And so the Lord, recapitulating this day in Himself, came to His Passion the day before the Sabbath, which is the sixth day of creation, on which man was formed, and gave to man his second creation, that which is from death, through His Passion” (Contra Hæreses, V. xxiii. 2.).

Cornelius: “If we believe Marianus Scotus,[4] Eve lived for ten years after her husband, and died in the year of the world, and of her life, 940.

“Fifth, tradition relates that Adam was buried in Hebron.  Jacobus Edessenus, the teacher of St. Ephrem, relates to Barcepha lib. I, cap. xiv, that Noe religiously took Adam’s bones on the ark, and after the flood distributed them among his children; and that he preferred Sem to the others, and gave Adam’s skull to him, and with it Judæa.  Such was the care and honor the fathers had for burial, on account of the immortality of souls, which they held before themselves in certain faith and hope.  Hence it is the common opinion of the Fathers that Adam’s skull was buried on Mount Calvary, so that it might there be irrigated, washed clean, and brought back to life by the blood of Christ Crucified …[5]

[Cf. Bl. Anne Emmerich: “ … quite deep under the rock of Calvary (a rock was washed over it in the great flood), the grave of Adam and Eve was shown to me.  A head and one side of one of the skeletons were missing, and another head lay on the skeleton, to which it did not belong, deep under the earth.

“I have already seen many times that Adam’s and Eve’s bones did not all stay in their grave.  Noe had some of them in the ark, and these passed from generation to generation of the Patriarchs.  I saw that Noe and also Abraham, when making sacrifice, always placed some of Adam’s bones on the altar, and thereby reminded God of the promise He had given them.  When Jacob gave Joseph his many-colored robe, I saw that he also gave him some of Adam’s bones as relics.  Joseph always carried them on his breast.  They were placed with his own bones in the first reliquary, which the children of Israel took with them when they left Egypt” (Nachträge zum Leidenstage Jesu: Der Name Schädelstätte).]

Cornelius: “Finally, the sin of Adam and Eve was forgiven, as is evident from Sap. x. 2 …[6] Also, tradition tells us that Adam and Eve were saved; and this is so certain that Epiphanius, Philastrius, Augustine and others condemn the Encratites,[7] who denied this, for their error … Regarding this, the Fathers teach that Adam was among those who rose again with Christ, Matt. xxvii. 53;[8] nay, he rose before the other Saints.  Thus St. Athanasius, orat. De pass.; Augustine, Quæst. clxi; Origen, tract. 35 in Matth., and others” (Commentaria, pp 125-126).


[1] Proclus (A.D. 412-485), Neoplatonist philosopher: Super Timæum 22B.

[2] See immediately following.

[3] See immediately following.

[4] Irish monk and historian, 1028-1082.

[5] See immediately following.

[6] She preserved him, that was first formed by God the father of the world, when he was created alone, and she brought him out of his sin, and gave him power to govern all things (Sap. x. 1-2).

[7] Gnostic sect dating from second century.

[8] And the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose, and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, came into the holy city, and appeared to many (Matt. xxvii. 52-53).

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