19 August 2011

The Secrets of Exorcists by Orthodox Presbyters

A young woman sat in the chair near the altar. Father Sava began Liturgy reading the prayers from the Church service book in one hand while handling a lamp and censer in the other. As he approached the woman she started to cry, twitching her fingers and hitting her legs. Then, an abnormally deep voice came out of her mouth:
"Savo, don't do it. She is ours! Her aunt brought her to us. She is ours! She should not have finished college! She should not have gotten married! We want her to die! Death ...St. Matrona protects her!"
The monk didn't give up. He continued reading. Prayers, hymns, psalms. As he intensified praying, the invisible power attacked the girl stronger than before. She cried, shook and screamed for the whole Divine Liturgy. And then peace surprisingly came. The woman's body relaxed with visible relief. The demons left the suffering human being. She went out of the church as if nothing had happened.

The scene is not an excerpt from the one of Hollywood's blockbuster horrors. It is a reality that Sonja Brankovic, a 28-year-old Bosnian woman witnessed at Sunday morning Liturgy, in the Serbian Orthodox monastery Saint Ilija, Krupa, near Banja Luka, a few days before Pascha (Easter) 2011.

She could not believe what she saw, but over time she had to accept that the presence of evil was more than obvious. It finally became clear to her that Satan does not attack only Catholics, as Hollywood has been filming for almost 40 years, but also the Orthodox Christians of which she is one.
Unfortunately, the rich tradition of Orthodox exorcism stays in the shadow of "The Exorcist" , launched in 1973 and primarily popularizingthe Roman rite. Even the Baylor Religion Survey (2007) which finds that nearly four in five of respondents believe in demon possession, four decades after Hollywood's expansion of exorcism, does not present any statistical data within the Orthodox sample.

However, it is a significant fact from Russian Trinity -- Sergius Lavra illustrating that three to five persons are possessed among the hundreds of those that regularly attend Liturgy.

That which people see in films is usually exaggerated drama. There is no levitating bed, spinning head or green-pea soups disgorged over the priest.

"An accurate depiction of an Orthodox exorcism appears in a Russian film "Ostrov " says Father Ioannis, a monk and confessor of Simonos Petras Monastery, Mt. Athos, accenting the compilation of prayers as the essence of the Orthodox exorcism.

A prayers-cocktail expels the demons

The standard exorcism procedure is found in The Great Book of Needs ( Euchologion or Trebnik ). This most comprehensive liturgical book of the Orthodox Church includes:
  1. Opening blessing,
  2. Trisagion prayers,
  3. Psalms 142(143), 22(23), 26(27), 67(68), 50(51),
  4. A hymn, Canon of Supplication to our Lord Jesus Christ (includes special litanies after odes 3,6,9);
  5. Anointing with oil, with prayer of anointing that is the same prayer used in the service of healing unction.
  6. Three prayers of exorcism by St. Basil and four prayers of St. John Chrysostom.
According the Typikon of St. Sava Monastery, Palestine, the blessed oil used in exorcism is removed from the temple and kept in the possession of the person receiving the exorcism for protective custody throughout life. At the time of the exorcised person's death, the residual oil will be buried with the remains in the coffin.

Father Juvenily Repass, an Instructor and Chaplain at St Herman's Orthodox Theological Seminary warns that exorcism services would be "a grave sin and spiritually dangerous, "for a non-priests and layman. He says: "The service of exorcism is a very serious matter so even the priest should consult with the bishop before practicing it.

Exorcism: Orthodox & Roman Rituals

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church that elevated the Office of Exorcist, as a special exorcists unit, all Orthodox priests are trained and equipped to perform exorcism primarily as an obligatory part of Orthodox Baptism.

Four prayers appear in the early portion of the Baptism service known as "The Making of a Catechumen."

The Orthodox Greeks practice an unique exorcism against demonic influence known as " Evil Eye" or "Vaskania" , a phenomenon deeply rooted in pre-Christian pagan tradition, but also widely present among other cultures. There is belief that some people through jealousy or envy can bring harm upon other people. It is considered that such people are demon - possessed, overlooking special and attractive people such as: beauties, those born on Saturday afternoon (time of Christ's birth), babies forty days after their births and young children. Affected persons suffer from discomfort, dizziness, whining, sleeplessness, peevishness, headache and pain.

Orthodox priests read a special Prayer for overlooking. The special small crosses from Mt. Athos made of unicorn's horn and oil from sacred lamp in church are also strong defense against the demon acting from person with evil eye.
The Greek Church permanently confront some groups of self-proclaimed exorcists (mainly old -women) that traditionally practice their own rite against " evil-eye" that includes religious procedure with olive oil, water and Cross, but opposite to recommendations of Church and The Great Book of Needs.

The monks from Russian Valaam monastery consider that everyone is possessed at some level, depending how much they are burdened by passions, so they recommend living according to God's commandments: fast, prayers, confession, repentance and Holy Communion."

Family sins open doors to demons

An Athonite monk Dositej Hilandarac warns that, "We inherit parents' spiritual debts, the same as we inherent land, money and material debts from them" He recalls:
"In summer 2010, monks from monastery Hilandar [Mt. Athos] exorcised a possessed boy. Despite prayers that lasted an entire week, the demons did not vacate the boy. Then I suggested to boy's father to repent and make confession. Because the father never confessed before this time, his son had become fertile ground for the demons. Indeed, the son had suffered for years just as the father and other family members had suffered by observing the child without recourse to resolve the problem on their own. This occasion was the only way to awaken the sinner. The father's repentance and confession were key to the success of our exorcism prayers."
Archimandrite Petar Dragojlovic, Hegumen of St. Nicholas monastery, Vranjina, recalls a young woman whom he exorcised in 2005. This woman had been possessed by seven demons after having practiced spiritualism with her grandmother prior to the elder's death.
"When grandmother died, she came to see her last time expressing desire to be beside her body that night. At the midnight, the demons began to sing and rejoice as they took the grandmother's soul because the old woman has served them through spiritualism. All seven demons entered into the girl. Until then she was an excellent student at Belgrade University with high grades. After possession she could not pass any exam. I have read the prayers to her in the Cetinje Monastery. Only after persistent reading of prayers by a year she received healing. But every time she went through the agony. She screamed with a high-pitched tone. Her body shook as her eyes gyrated. Her neck became twice as thick with distended veins. Two men were required to hold her in place for the prayers. Her strength was extraordinary. She now serves the God as a nun."
Possessed or Obsessed?

As the International Classification of Disease does not recognize demon possession as an official diagnosis the religion and medicine are in constant confrontation. While the psychiatrists consider it as a symptom of mental disorders, priests say it is possible to distinguish demon-possessed individuals from persons with mental illness. Hegumen Dragojlovic observes:

"When mentally-ill persons approach the holy relics their bodies do not show contractions and other distortions. Moreover, persons with mental illness do not blaspheme, and they do not scream. On the other hand, demon-possessed persons look normal outside of holy places such as an Orthodox temple. However, when they approach the temple and the holy relics, they react because demons start to torture them.
Hegumen's description parallels what Kurt E. Koch's described in his 1973 text, Demonology Past and Present differentiate demon possession from psychological disorders?

The monks from the Orthodox Monastery of Vasilije Ostroski in Montenegro also confirm Hegumen's words. One of most famous Orthodox sanctuary for demonized people keeps the rich archives of personal testimonies of people that have been brought there as "lunatics" but after exorcism in front of the relics of St. Vasilije they have been healed continuing to live a normal life.

Does it really work? The answer certainly depends on what you are closer to -- Hollywood or the Faith of more than 2000 years.

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15 August 2011

Adam & Eve in the Abrahamic Traditions

Adam (Hebrew: אָדָם‎, ʼĀḏām, "dust; man; mankind"; Arabic: آدم‎, ʼĀdam) and Eve (Hebrew: חַוָּה‎, Ḥawwā, "living one") were, according to the Book of Genesis, the first man and woman created by YHWH (the God of the Hebrew Bible).

Genesis 1
God creates the universe in seven days, reserving for his sixth-day labor the climax of creation: man and woman. On the seventh day God rests and so establishes the holiness of the Sabbath.

Genesis 2
God fashions a man (Heb. adam, "man" or "mankind") from the dust (Heb. adamah) and blows the breath of life into his nostrils, then plants a garden (the Garden of Eden) and causes to grow in the middle of the garden the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. God sets the man in the garden "to work it and watch over it," permitting him to eat from all the trees in the garden except the Tree of Knowledge, "for on the day you eat of it you shall surely die." God brings the animals to the man for him to name. None of them are found to be a suitable companion for the man, so God causes the man to sleep and creates a woman from a part of his body (English-language tradition describes the part as a rib, but the Hebrew word tsela, from which this interpretation is derived, has multiple meanings; see the Textual Note, below). Describing her as "bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh," the man calls his new help-mate "woman" (Heb. ishshah), "for this one was taken from a man" (Heb. ish). This sundering, a making of two from one, predicates reunification in marriage, in which two will be made one: "On account of this a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his woman." The chapter ends by establishing the state of primeval innocence, noting that the man and woman were naked and not ashamed, and so provides the departure point for the subsequent narrative in which wisdom is gained through disobedience at severe cost.

Genesis 3
The Serpent, "slyer than every beast of the field," tempts the woman to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, telling her that it will make her more like God, and that it will not lead to death. After some thought about the fruit's beauty and succulence, and its ability to grant wisdom, the woman decides to eat it. She then gives the fruit to the man, who eats also, "and the eyes of the two of them were opened." Aware now of their nakedness, they make coverings of fig leaves, and hide from the sight of God. God asks them what they have done, and man and woman defer responsibility. The man blames the woman for giving him the fruit, but implies a sentiment that God is also at fault for making the woman in the first place ("The woman Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate"), while the woman blames the serpent for seducing her to disobedience ("The serpent beguiled me and I ate"). God curses the Serpent "above all animals," causing it to lose its legs and to become an eternal enemy of the human race. God then passes judgment for the disobedience of the man and woman, condemning the man to sustain life through hard labor and the woman to create new life through painful childbirth, and banishes them from the garden. The woman is given the name Eve (Heb. hawwah) "because she was the mother of all living [Heb. hay]," and Adam receives his name when the text drops the definite article from the word for "the man," changing "ha-adam" to "Adam". Eve/woman is also established as subordinate to Adam/man, ending utopian unity between the sexes. God then posts two cherubim, with flaming swords, at the entrance to the Garden of Eden in order to block the way to the Tree of Life, "lest he put out his hand ... and eat, and live forever."

Genesis 4 and 5
Genesis 4 tells of the birth of Cain and Abel, Adam & Eve's first children, while Genesis 5 gives Adam's genealogy past that. Adam & Eve are listed as having three children named Cain, Abel and Seth, then "other sons and daughters" (Genesis 5:4, NIV). Adam lived for 930 years.
"Let us make man..." (Genesis 1:26) - The plural "us" (and "our" in the phrase "in our image") is  traditionally interpreted as evidence for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. 
"...you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17) - Adam is told that if he eats of the forbidden tree the consequence will be moth tamuth, "die a death", indicating not merely death but emphatically so. As Adam does not in fact die immediately on eating the fruit, some exegetes have argued that it means "you shall die eventually," so that Adam and Eve would have had immortality in the Garden, but lost it by eating the forbidden fruit. Another explanation is that Adam will undergo "a spiritual death". The 2nd century Book of Jubilees (4:29–31) explained that "one day" is equivalent to a thousand years and thus Adam died within that same "day"; the Greek Septuagint, on the other hand, has "day" translated into the Greek word for a twenty-four hour period. 
Eve" (Genesis 3.20) - The Hebrew word for Eve is hawwah, deriving from a word for "life" or "living". "Eve" probably resulted from corruption of the Hebrew phonemes, roughly pronounced CHA-vah, as the stories of the ancient Israelites spread into Greece and Rome.
The Sibylline Oracles, dating from the centuries immediately around the time of Christ, explain the name Adam as a notaricon composed of the initials of the four directions; anatole (east), dusis (west), arktos (north), and mesembria (south). In the 2nd century, Rabbi Yohanan used the Greek technique of notarichon to explain the name אָדָם as the initials of the words afer, dam, and marah, being dust, blood, and gall.

According to the Torah (Genesis 2:7), Adam was formed from "dust from the earth"; in the Talmud(Tractate Sanhedrin 38b) of the first centuries of A.D. he is, more specifically, described as having initially been a golem kneaded from mud.

Even in ancient times, the presence of two distinct accounts of the creation of the first man (or couple) was noted. The first account says male and female [God] created them, whereas the second account states that God created Eve subsequent to the creation of Adam. The Midrash Rabbah - Genesis VIII:1 reconciled the two by stating that Genesis 1, "male and female He created them", indicates that God originally created Adam as a hermaphrodite, bodily and spiritually both male and female, before creating the separate beings of Adam and Eve. Other rabbis suggested that Eve and the woman of the first account were two separate individuals, the first being identified as Lilith, a figure elsewhere described as a night demon.

Genesis does not tell for how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, but the 2nd century BC Book of Jubilees, provides more specific information. It states (ch3 v17) that the serpent convinced Eve to eat the fruit on the 17th day of the 2nd month in the 8th year after Adam's creation. It also states that they were removed from the garden on the new moon of the fourth month of that year (ch3 v33). Other Jewish sources assert that the period involved was less than a day.

According to traditional Jewish belief Adam and Eve are buried in the Cave of Machpelah, in Hebron.

The story of Adam and Eve forms the basis for the Christian doctrine of original sin: "Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned," said Paul of Tarsus in his Epistle to the Romans, although Chapter 3 of Genesis does not use the word "sin" and Genesis 3:24 makes clear that the couple are expelled "lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever". St Augustine of Hippo (354–430), working with a Latin translation of the epistle, understood Paul to have said that Adam's sin was hereditary: "Death passed upon (i.e. spread to) all men because of Adam, [in whom] all sinned". Original sin, the concept that man is born in a condition of sinfulness and must await redemption, thus became a cornerstone of Western Christian theological tradition; the belief is not shared by Judaism or the Orthodox Christian churches, and has been dropped by some post-Reformation churches.

Over the centuries, Baptism has become understood as a washing away of the stain of hereditary sin in many churches, although its original symbolism was apparently rebirth. Additionally, the serpent that tempted Eve was interpreted to have been Satan, or that Satan was using a serpent as a mouthpiece. A Christian basis for this identification can be found in Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 where Satan is called the "Old Serpent".

The Quran tells of آدم (ʾĀdam) in the surah al-Baqara (2):30-39, al-A'raf (7):11-25, al-Hijr (15):26-44, al-Isra (17):61-65, Ta-Ha (20):115-124, and Sad (38):71-85.

The Quran says that Adam initiated the fruit eating and that both Adam and Eve (Hawa) ate the forbidden fruit, for which God later forgave them, and then sent both of them down to earth as his representatives. The Hadith (the prophetic narrations) and literature shed light on the Muslim view of the first couple.

Islamic texts, which include The Qur'an and the books of Sunnah (Hadith), do not dramatically alter the story of Adam and Eve unlike other stories from the Bible. In particular, the Quran does not absolve Eve from the responsibility of leading Adam to commit the original sin by completely omitting the details of the legend as written in the Genesis. Quran simply blames both of them for the transgression. However, a saying of Prophet Mohammed narrated by Abu Hurrairah clearly designates Eve as the epitome of female betrayal, linking her to the original sin. “Narrated Abu Hurrairah: The Prophet said, ‘Were it not for Bani Israel, meat would not decay; and were it not for Eve, no woman would ever betray her husband.’" (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 611, Volume 55) An identical but more explicit version is found in the second most respected book of prophetic narrations, Sahih Muslim. “Abu Hurrairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah's Messenger (May peace be upon him) as saying: Had it not been for Eve, woman would have never acted unfaithfully towards her husband.” (Hadith 3471, Volume 8)

The early Islamic commentator Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari adds a number of details to the Torah, based on hadith as well as specific Jewish traditions (so-called isra'iliyat). Tabari records that when it came time to create Adam, God sent Gabriel (Jibril), then Michael (Mika'il), to fetch clay from the earth; but the earth complained, saying I take refuge in God from you, if you have come to diminish or deform me, so the angels returned empty-handed. Tabari goes on to state that God responded by sending the Angel of Death, who took clay from all regions, hence providing an explanation for the variety of appearances of the different races of mankind.

According to Tabari's account, after receiving the breath of God, Adam remained a dry body for 40 days. Then gradually came to life from the head downwards. He came back to life saying "All praise be to God, the Lord of all beings." Having been created, Adam, the first man, is described as having been given domination over all the lower creatures, which he proceeds to name. As one of the people, to whom God have spoken directly. Adam is seen as a prophet in Islam.

At this point, Adam takes a prominent role in Islamic traditions concerning the fall of Satan, which is not recorded in the Torah, but in the Book of Enoch which is used in Oriental Orthodox churches. In these, when God announces his intention of creating Adam, some of the angels express dismay, asking why he would create a being that would do evil. Teaching Adam the names reassures the angels as to Adam's abilities, though commentators dispute which particular names were involved; various theories say they were the names of all things animate and inanimate, the names of the angels, the names of his own descendants, or the names of God.

When God orders the angels to bow to Adam one of those present, Satan, a Djinn, who said "why should I bow to man, I am made of pure fire and he is made of soil", refuses due to his pride, and is summarily banished from the Heavens. Liberal movements within Islam have viewed God's commanding the angels to bow before Adam as an exaltation of humanity, and as a means of supporting human rights, others view it as an act of showing Adam that the biggest enemy of humans on earth will be their ego.

Eve is referred to in the Qur'an as Adam's spouse, and Islamic tradition refers to her by an etymologically similar name, حواء (Hawwāʾ) . It has been said in The Qur'an surah 4: Surah Al-Nisa' O! mankind ! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife Hawwa (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women; Thus the Quran (4:1) reveals that God created Eve from Adam. The Torah gives an etymology for woman, or rather the Hebrew equivalent (ish-shah), stating that she should be called woman since she was taken out of man (ish in Hebrew).

The Quran blames both Adam and Eve for eating the forbidden fruit and as a punishment they were both banished from Heaven to the Earth. Muslims therefore interpret that this event does not pose a problem of women inferiority to men intrinsically. The concept of original sin doesn't exist in Islam. Adam and Eve were forgiven after they repented on Earth. A Prophetic Hadith recalls that after leaving Eden, Adam descended in India whereas Eve descended in Jeddah. They searched for each other, and finally found each other at the Plain of 'Arafat (near Mecca), which means recognition.

Al-Qummi records the opinion that Eden was not entirely earthly, and so, having been sent to earth, Adam and Eve first arrived at mountain peaks outside Mecca; Adam on Safa, and Eve on Marwa. In this Islamic tradition, Adam remained weeping for 40 days, until he repented, at which point God rewarded him by sending down the Black Stone, and teaching him the hajj.

The Qur'an also describes the two sons of Adam (named Qabil and Habil in Islamic tradition) that correspond to Cain and Abel.

Shi'a Muslims believe that Adam is buried next to Ali, within Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq.

Adam and Eve were used by early Renaissance artists as a theme to represent female and male nudes. Later, the nudity was objected to by more modest elements, and fig leaves were added to the older pictures and sculptures, covering their genitals. The choice of the fig was a result of Mediterranean traditions identifying the unnamed Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as a fig tree, and since fig leaves were actually mentioned in Genesis as being used to cover Adam and Eve's nudity.

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14 August 2011

Esdras A & B (Chronicles, Ezra, & Nehemiah)

1 Esdras (Greek Έσδράς Αˊ), Greek Ezra, is an ancient Greek version of the biblical Book of Ezra in use among ancient Jewry, the early church, and many modern Christians with varying degrees of canonicity and a high historical usefulness.

In all, 1 Esdras includes 99 more verses than the newer Masoretic Ezra. These lie almost entirely in one section and serve a literary purpose; one other, short passage is in a different position. Modern texts continue with the last two short chapters of the preceding biblical work, 2 Chronicles. Thus like Ezra, it is used as evidence for a once larger Chronicles-Ezra that has since been split canonically.

The historical importance of this version of Ezra is that ancients such as the Jewish Josephus and the Christian Church Fathers quoted 1 Esdras extensively as Scripture. Moreover, it was grouped with the Canon of The Old Testament; for example, it is found in Origen's Hexapla. As a part of the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, it is regarded as canonical in the churches of the East, but regarded with a less lofty view among modern Jews and the Zionist churches of the West who recently began to exclude it from their canons.

First Esdras contains the whole of Ezra with additions of about four chapters. Moreover, just as Ezra begins with the last two verses of 2 Chronicles, 1 Esdras begins with the last two chapters; and it concludes with fourteen verses parallel to part of Nehemiah.

1 Esdras 2:15-30a flashes forward to Artaxerxes' reign, when the book ends. Following this prolepsis is the core of 1 Esdras, arranged in a beautiful literary chiasm around the celebration in Jerusalem at the exiles’ return. This arrangement is possible only with the material not found in Ezra (1 Esd. 2:30b — 5:1-6). These verses are the core of the chiasm, critical to the book's purpose and structure. Not only are these verses the core of the chiasm, but they fit the events in history, in the reigns of Cyrus the Great, Darius the Great, and Artaxerxes I. Because of their importance, the two books Ezra and Nehemiah may once have formed separate books, rather than a single Ezra-Nehemiah. Indeed some scholars, such as W. F. Albright and Edwin M. Yamauchi, believe that Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem before Ezra.

Scholars believe that this work may have been the original, or at least the more authoritative; the variances that are contained in this work are so striking that more research is being conducted. Furthermore, there is disagreement as to what the original language of the work was, Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew. Because of similarities to the vocabulary in the Book of Daniel, it is presumed by some that the authors came from Lower Egypt and some or all may have even had a hand in the translation of Daniel. Assuming this theory is correct, many scholars consider the possibility that one "chronicler" wrote this book.

Josephus makes use of the book and some scholars believe that the composition is likely to have taken place in the first century BC. Many newer Protestant and Roman Catholic scholars assign no historical value to the "original" sections of the book. The citations of the other books of the Bible, however, provide an early alternative to the Septuagint for those texts, which increases its value to scholars.

In the current Greek texts, the book breaks off in the middle of a sentence; that particular verse thus had to be reconstructed from an early Latin translation. However, it is generally presumed that the original work extended to the Feast of Tabernacles, as described in Nehemiah 8:13-18. An additional difficulty with the text is the lack of order in the historical sequence of events. Artaxerxes is mentioned before Darius, who is mentioned before Cyrus. (Such jumbling of the order of events, however, is also suspected by some authors to exist in Masoretic Ezra and Nehemiah.) This double naming is corrected by Josephus in The Antiquities of the Jews Book 11 chapter 2 where we find that the name of the above mentioned Artaxerxes is called Cambyses.

The book was widely quoted by early Christian authors and it found a place in Origen's Hexapla. It was not included in later canons of the Western Church, and Clement VIII relegated it to an appendix following the New Testament in the Vulgate "lest [it] perish entirely". However, the use of the book continued in the Eastern Church, and it remains a part of the original Eastern Orthodox canon.

The book normally called 1 Esdras is numbered differently among various versions of the Bible. In most editions of the Septuagint, the book is titled in Greek: Έσδράς Αˊ and is placed before the single book of Ezra-Nehemiah, which is titled in Greek: Έσδράς Βˊ:
  • Septuagint and its derivative translations: Έσδράς Αˊ = 1 Esdras
  • King James Version and many successive English translations: 1 Esdras
  • Vulgate and its derivative translations: 3 Esdras
  • Slavonic bible: 2 Esdras
  • Ethiopic bible: Ezra Kali

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The Book of Enoch, Great-Grandfather of Noah

The Book of Enoch (also 1 Enoch) is an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from Beta Israel. It is regarded as canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedon Church and Eritrean Orthodox Church, but no other Christian group.

Western scholars believe that its older sections (mainly in the Book of the Watchers) date from about 300 BC, and the latest part (Book of Parables) probably was composed at the end of the 1st century BC.

It is wholly extant only in the Ge'ez language, with Aramaic fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls and a few Greek and Latin fragments. There is no consensus among scholars about the original language: some propose Aramaic, others Hebrew, while the probable thesis, according to E. Isaac, is that 1 Enoch, like Daniel, was composed partially in Aramaic and partially in Hebrew. Ethiopian scholars generally hold that Ge'ez is the language of the original from which the Greek and Aramaic copies were made, pointing out that it is the only language in which the complete text has yet been found.

A short section of 1 Enoch (1 En 1:9) is quoted in the New Testament (Letter of Jude 1:14-15), and is there attributed to "Enoch the Seventh from Adam" (1 En 60:8). It is argued that all the writers of the New Testament were familiar with it and were influenced by it in thought and diction.

The book consists of five quite distinct major sections):
  1. The Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1 – 36)
  2. The Book of Parables of Enoch (1 Enoch 37 – 71) (Also called the Similitudes of Enoch)
  3. The Astronomical Book (1 Enoch 72 – 82) (Also called the Book of the Heavenly Luminaries or Book of Luminaries)
  4. The Book of Dream Visions (1 Enoch 83 – 90) (Also called the Book of Dreams)
  5. The Epistle of Enoch (1 Enoch 91 – 108)
Among most scholars is the shared view that these five sections were originally independent works (with different dates of composition), themselves a product of much editorial arrangement, and were only later redacted into what we now call 1 Enoch. This view is now opposed only by a few authors who maintain the literary integrity of the Book of Enoch, one of the most recent (1990) being the Ethiopian Wossenie Yifru.

Józef Milik has suggested that the Book of Giants found among the Dead Sea Scrolls should be part of the collection, appearing after the Book of Watchers in place of the Book of Parables, but for various reasons, Milik's theory has not been widely accepted.

Although evidently widely known at the time of the development of the Jewish Bible canon, 1 Enoch was excluded from both the formal canon of the Tanakh and the typical canon of the Septuagint and therefore, also the writings often known today as the Apocrypha. One possible reason for Jewish rejection of the book might be the textual nature of several early sections of the book that make use of material from the Torah; for example, 1 En 1 is a midrash of Deuteronomy 33. The content, particularly detailed descriptions of fallen angels, would also be a reason for rejection from the Hebrew canon at this period - as illustrated by the comments of Trypho the Jew when debating with Justin Martyr on this subject. Trypho: "The utterances of God are holy, but your expositions are mere contrivances, as is plain from what has been explained by you; nay, even blasphemies, for you assert that angels sinned and revolted from God." (Dialogue 79)

The book is referred to, and quoted, in Jude 14-15:
"And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these [men], saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
Compare this with Enoch 1:9, translated from the Ethiopic (found also in Qumran scroll 4Q204=4QEnochc ar, col I 16-18):
"And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones To execute judgement upon all, And to destroy all the ungodly: And to convict all flesh Of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."
Compare this also with what may be the original source of 1 En 1:9 in Deuteronomy 33:2:
"The Lord came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand."
In the case of the Jude 14 quotation of 1 Enoch 1:9, it would be difficult to argue that Jude does not quote Enoch as he cites Enoch by name (verse 14). However, there remains a question as to whether the author of Jude attributed the quotation believing the source to be the historical Enoch before the flood or a midrash of Deut 33:2-3. The Greek text is also unusual in stating that "Enoch the Seventh from Adam" prophesied "to" (dative) not "of" (genitive) the men.

Peter H. Davids points to Dead Sea Scrolls evidence but leaves it open as to whether Jude viewed 1 Enoch as canon, deuterocanon, or otherwise: "Did Jude, then, consider this scripture to be like Genesis or Isaiah? Certainly he did consider it authoritative, a true word from God. We cannot tell whether he ranked it alongside other prophetic books such as Isaiah and Jeremiah. What we do know is, first, that other Jewish groups, most notably those living in Qumran near the Dead Sea, also used and valued 1 Enoch, but we do not find it grouped with the scriptural scrolls."

It may be significant that the attribution "Enoch the Seventh from Adam" is apparently itself a section heading taken from 1 Enoch (1 En 60:8, Jude 1:14a) and not from Genesis.

Another probable Biblical reference can be found in I Peter 3:19-20 to En 21:6.

The Book of Enoch is considered as Scripture in the Epistle of Barnabas (16:4) and by many of the early Church Fathers, such as Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus and Tertullian, who wrote c. 200 that the Book of Enoch had been rejected by the Jews because it contained prophecies pertaining to Christ, like the Masoretic canon of the Jews undoubtedly did.

However, later Fathers denied the canonicity of the book, and some even considered the letter of Jude uncanonical because it refers to an "apocryphal" work. By the 4th century, it was mostly excluded from Christian lists of the Biblical canon, and it was omitted from the canon by most of the Christian church (the Ethiopian Orthodox Church being an exception).

The traditional view of the Ethiopic Orthodox Church, which reckons 1 Enoch as an inspired document, is that the Ethiopic text is the original one, written by Enoch himself. In their view, the following opening sentence of Enoch is the first and oldest sentence written in any human language, since Enoch was the first to write letters:

"Qāla barakat za-Hēnōk zakama bārraka ḫirūyāna wa-ṣādḳāna 'ila halaw yikūnū baʿilata mindābē la'asaslō kʷilū 'ikūyān wa-rasīʿān"
"Word of blessing of Henok, wherewith he blessed the chosen and righteous who would be alive in the day of tribulation for the removal of all wrongdoers and backsliders."

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13 August 2011

The Assumption of Moses

The Assumption of Moses (otherwise called the Testament of Moses) is a Jewish apocryphal pseudepigraphical work. It is known from a single sixth-century incomplete manuscript in Latin that was discovered by Antonio Ceriani in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan in the mid-nineteenth century and published by him in 1861.

The two titles of this manuscript are due to different identifications with lost texts. The Stichometry of Nicephorus and some other ancient lists refer to both a Testament of Moses and an Assumption of Moses, apparently as separate texts.

Ceriani, and recently Tromp with him, identified the manuscript with the Assumption of Moses (which is also called the Ascension of Moses) due to a match of verse 1:14 with a quotation included in the Historia Ecclesiastica of Gelasius of Cyzicus. This apocryphal work, entitled השמִ תריטפ in Hebrew, and ᾽Ανάληψις or ᾽Ανάβασις Μωυσέως in Greek, is also mentioned by other ancient writers, including Athanasius (in his Synopsis Sacræ Scripturæ) and Origen.

Charles, in his edition of 1897 suggests that the manuscript shall be identified with the Testament of Moses because the extant text does not describe any assumption of Moses to heaven, but simply contains the last exhortations of Moses (thus his testament). Charles furthermore suggests that these two separate texts were later united to form a single work.

Some ancient writers, including Gelasius (verse 2,21,17) and Origen (De principiis, III,2,1), cite the Assumption of Moses with reference to the dispute over the body of Moses, referred to in the Epistle of Jude 1:9, between the archangel Michael and Satan.

This dispute does not appear in Ceriani's manuscript; this could lend support to the identification of the manuscript with the Testament of Moses, but could also be explained by the text's incompleteness (it is believed that about a third of the text is missing).

An alternative explanation is that Jude is compounding material from three sources:
  1. general Jewish traditions about Michael as gravedigger for the just as Apocalypse of Moses
  2. contrast with the accusation by Michael of Azazel in the Book of Enoch
  3. contrast with the angel of the Lord not rebuking Satan over the body of Jeshua in Zechariah 3.
This explanation has in its favour three arguments:
  1. Jude quotes from both 1 Enoch 1:9 and Zechariah 3
  2. Jeshua in Zechariah 3 is dead - his grandson is serving as high priest. The change from "body of Jesus" (Greek spelling of Jeshua) to "body of Moses" would be required to avoid confusion with Jesus, and also to reflect the historical context of Zechariah 3 in Nehemiah concerning intermarriage and corruption in the "body" of the priesthood.
  3. The example of Zech.3 provides an argument against the "slandering of heavenly beings", since the Angel of the Lord does not do in Zechariah 3 what Michael is reported to do in 1En1.
The text is in twelve chapters and purports to be secret prophecies Moses revealed to Joshua before passing leadership of the Israelites to him.
  • In Chapter 1 Moses, before dying, chooses Jesus (Jeshua/Joshua) of Nun as successor and leaves him the books he shall preserve to the end of days when the Lord will visit his people. The role of Moses as mediator is highlighted.
  • Chapters 2–5 contain a brief outline of Jewish history up to Hellenization under Antiochus IV. This is narrated in the form of foretelling.
  • Chapter 6 predicts easily recognizable figures, including the Hasmonean and Herod the Great with his sons. The history follows up to the partial destruction of the Temple.
  • Chapter 7 is about the end of days, but the manuscript is too fragmented to fully understand the text.
  • Chapter 8 narrates a great persecution of Jews at the hands of hypocrites. Some scholars read this as an eschatological prophecy, while others, like Charles, interpret this as events that happened before the Maccabee rebellion. Charles also suggests that chapters 8 and 9 were originally located between chapters 5 and 6.
  • In Chapter 9 the narrative follows with a description of a Levite man named Taxo and his seven sons, who, rather than give in to hellenizing influences, seal themselves into a cave.
  • Chapter 10 contains an eschatological hymn: At the end of the times God will arise, punish the Gentiles, and exalt Israel. Before the coming of God a messenger (Latin nuntius) with sacerdotal tasks is prophesied, who will avenge Israel.
  • Chapters 11 and 12 conclude the text with Moses exhorting Jesus (Joshua) of Nun not to fear, as history fully provides for God's covenant and plan.
Due to the vaticinia ex eventu, most scholars date the work to the early 1st century BC, contemporary with the latest historical figures it describes. Some others, however, do date it to the previous century and suggest that the 1st-century references in chapters six and ten were later insertions.

Based on the literal translation of idioms within the text, it is generally accepted that the extant Latin version is a translation from Greek, with the Greek itself probably a translation from Hebrew or at least a text with considerable Semitic influence.

There are no theological peculiarities to help us attribute the text to any specific Jewish group. The main theme is the apocalyptic determinism of a history that unfolds according only to God's plan, regardless the acts of either the Israelites or the Gentiles. Another theme is the figure of Moses, who is shown as a mediator and intercessor between God and humanity.

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09 August 2011


The Nephilim (plural) are the offspring of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men" in Genesis 6:4, and/or giants who inhabit Canaan in Numbers 13:33. A similar word with different vowel-sounds is used in Ezekiel 32:27 to refer to dead Philistine warriors.

The term "Nephilim" occurs just twice in the Hebrew Bible, both in the Torah. The first is Genesis 6:1-4, immediately before the Noah's ark story:
1. When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them,
2. the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.
3. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."
4. The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
The second is Numbers 13:32-33, where the Hebrew spies report that they have seen fearsome giants in Canaan:
32. And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.
33. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."
Genesis 6:4 describes the nephilim as "ancient warriors, the men of renown", and in Numbers 13:32-33 they are a race of giants native to Canaan. Both ideas are supported elsewhere in the Hebrew bible.

Ezekiel 32:27 speaks of "the fallen mighty (gibborim nophelim, גִּבֹּורִים נֹפְלִים) of the uncircumcised, which are gone down (yaradu, יָרְדֽוּ) to the grave with their weapons of war"; a change to the vowels would produce the reading gibborim nephilim.

In Amos 2:9, while not using the word "nephilim", Yahweh reminds the prophet that he "destroyed the Amorites before you, whose height was as the height of cedar trees". Genesis 6:4 says "the nephilim were on the earth in those days (before the Flood), and also after", and most later compositions and translations, including the Septuagint, therefore understand the nephilim to be giants.

Orthodox Judaism has always taken a consistent line against the idea that Genesis 6 refers to angels or that angels could intermarry with men. Shimon bar Yochai pronounced a curse on anyone teaching this idea. Rashi and Nachmanides followed this. Pseudo-Philo, Biblical Antiquities 3:1-3 may also imply that the "sons of God" were human. Consequently, most Jewish commentaries and translations describe the Nephilim as being from the offspring of "sons of nobles", rather than from "sons of God" or "sons of angels". This is also the rendering suggested in the Targum Onqelos, Symmachus and the Samaritan Targum which read "sons of the rulers", where Targum Neophyti reads "sons of the judges".

Likewise, a long-held view among Orthodox Christians is that the "sons of God" who fathered the Nephilim spoken of in the text, were in fact the formerly righteous descendants of Seth who rebelled, while the "daughters of men" were the unrighteous descendants of Cain, and the Nephilim the offspring of their union. This view dates to at least the 2nd century AD, with references throughout the Clementine literature, as well as in Sextus Julius Africanus, Ephrem the Syrian and others. Holders of this view have seen support in Jesus' statement that "in the days before the flood they (humans) were marrying and giving in marriage"

Some individuals and groups, including St. Augustine, John Chrysostom, and John Calvin, take the view of Genesis 6:2 that the "Angels" who fathered the Nephilim referred to certain human males from the lineage of Seth, who were called sons of God probably in reference to their being formerly in a covenantal relationship with Yahweh (cf. Deuteronomy 14:1; 32:5); according to these sources, these men had begun to pursue bodily interests, and so took wives of the daughters of men, e.g., those who were descended from Cain or from any people who did not worship God.

This also is the view of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, supported by their own ancient Ge'ez manuscripts and Amharic translation of the Haile Selassie Bible - where the canonical books of 1 Enoch and Jubilees differ from newer western academic editions. The "Sons of Seth view" is also the view presented in a few extra-Biblical, yet ancient works, including Clementine literature, the 3rd century Cave of Treasures, and the ca. 6th Century Ge'ez work The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan. In these sources, these offspring of Seth were said to have disobeyed God, by breeding with the Cainites and producing wicked children "who were all unlike", thus angering God into bringing about the Deluge, as in the Conflict:
Certain wise men of old wrote concerning them, and say in their [sacred] books, that angels came down from heaven, and mingled with the daughters of Cain, who bare unto them these giants. But these [wise men] err in what they say. God forbid such a thing, that angels who are spirits, should be found committing sin with human beings. Never, that cannot be. And if such a thing were of the nature of angels, or Satans, that fell, they would not leave one woman on earth, undefiled... But many men say, that angels came down from heaven, and joined themselves to women, and had children by them. This cannot be true. But they were children of Seth, who were of the children of Adam, that dwelt on the mountain, high up, while they preserved their virginity, their innocence and their glory like angels; and were then called 'angels of God.' But when they transgressed and mingled with the children of Cain, and begat children, ill-informed men said, that angels had come down from heaven, and mingled with the daughters of men, who bare them giants.

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08 August 2011

Patriarch Abraham's Wife, Sarah

Sarah Hebrew: שָׂרָה, Latin: Sara; Arabic: سارة) was the wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac as described in the Hebrew Bible and the Quran. Her name was originally Sarai. According to Genesis 17:15 God changed her name to Sarah as part of a covenant after Hagar bore Abraham his first son, Ishmael.

The Hebrew name Sarah indicates a woman of high rank and is sometimes translated as "princess". It also means "lady."

Sarah was the wife of Abraham, as well as being his half-sister, the daughter of his father Terah (Genesis 20:12). The Talmud identifies Sarai with Iscah, daughter of Abraham's deceased brother Haran (Genesis 11:29), so that Sarah turns out to be the niece of Abraham and the sister of Lot and Milcah. She was considered beautiful to the point that Abraham feared that when they were near more powerful rulers she would be taken away and given to another man. Twice he purposefully identified her as being only his sister so that he would be "treated well" for her sake. It is apparent that she remained attractive into her later years. Despite her great beauty, she was barren for an unknown reason. She was originally called "Sarai" which is translated "my princess." Later she was called "Sarah" i.e., princess." In Biblical times, the changing of one's name was significant and used to symbolize the binding of a covenant. In this case, God promised to put an end to her barrenness and give her a child (Isaac).

On the journey to Egypt, Abraham hid his wife in a chest in order that no one might see her. At the frontier the chest had to pass through the hands of certain officials, who insisted on examining its contents in order to determine the amount of duty payable. When it was opened a bright light proceeded from Sarai's beauty. Every one of the officials wished to secure possession of her, each offering a higher sum than his rival. When brought before Pharaoh, Sarai said that Abraham was her brother, and the king thereupon bestowed upon the latter many presents and marks of distinction ("Sefer ha-Yashar," l.c.). As a token of his love for Sarai the king deeded his entire property to her, and gave her the land of Goshen as her hereditary possession: for this reason the Israelites subsequently lived in that land (Pirḳe R. El. xxxvi.). It is likely that she acquired her Egyptian maidservant Hagar during this stay. Sarai prayed to God to deliver her from the king, and He thereupon sent an angel, who struck Pharaoh whenever he attempted to touch her. Pharaoh was so astonished at these blows that he spoke kindly to Sarai, who confessed that she was Abraham's wife. The king then ceased to annoy her ("Sefer ha-Yashar," l.c.). According to another version, Pharaoh persisted in annoying her after she had told him that she was a married woman; thereupon the angel struck him so violently that he became ill, and was thereby prevented from continuing to trouble her (Genesis Rabbah xli. 2). According to one tradition it was when Pharaoh saw these miracles wrought in Sarai's behalf that he gave her his daughter Hagar as slave, saying: "It is better that my daughter should be a slave in the house of such a woman than mistress in another house"; Abimelech acted likewise (Genesis Rabbah xlv. 2). Sarai treated Hagar well, and induced women who came to visit her to visit Hagar also. Hagar, when pregnant by Abraham, began to act superciliously toward Sarai, provoking the latter to treat her harshly, to impose heavy work upon her, and even to strike her (ib. xlv. 9).

Some believe Sarai was originally destined to reach the age of 175 years, but forty-eight years of this span of life were taken away from her because she complained of Abraham, blaming him as though the cause that Hagar no longer respected her (R. H. 16b; Genesis Rabbah xlv. 7). Sarah was sterile; but a miracle was vouchsafed to her (Genesis Rabbah xlvii. 3) after her name was changed from "Sarai" to "Sarah" (R. H. 16b). According to one myth, when her fertility had been restored and she had given birth to Isaac, the people would not believe in the miracle, saying that the patriarch and his wife had adopted a foundling and pretended that it was their own son. Abraham thereupon invited all the notabilities to a banquet on the day when Isaac was to be weaned. Sarah invited the women, also, who brought their infants with them; and on this occasion she gave milk from her breasts to all the strange children, thus convincing the guests of the miracle (B. M. 87a; comp. Gen. R. liii. 13). None of this is Biblical, however, except for the fact that Abraham organized a celebration when Isaac was weaned. It was during this banquet that Sarah happened upon the then teenaged Ishmael "mocking" her son and was so disturbed that she requested that both he and Hagar be removed from their company.

Legends connect Sarah's death with the attempted sacrifice of Isaac, there being two versions of the story. According to one, Samael came to her and said: "Your old husband seized the boy and sacrificed him. The boy wailed and wept; but he could not escape from his father." Sarah began to cry bitterly, and ultimately died of her grief. According to the other legend, Satan, disguised as an old man, came to Sarah and told her that Isaac had been sacrificed. She, believing it to be true, cried bitterly, but soon comforted herself with the thought that the sacrifice had been offered at the command of God. She started from Beer-sheba to Hebron, asking everyone she met if he knew in which direction Abraham had gone. Then Satan came again in human shape and told her that it was not true that Isaac had been sacrificed, but that he was living and would soon return with his father. Sarah, on hearing this, died of joy at Hebron. Abraham and Isaac returned to their home at Beer-sheba, and, not finding Sarah there, went to Hebron, where they discovered her dead. According to the Genesis Rabba, during Sarah's lifetime her house was always hospitably open, the dough was miraculously increased, a light burned from Saturday evening to Saturday evening, and a pillar of cloud rested upon the entrance to her tent.

The First Epistle of Peter praises Sarah for obeying her husband. Other New Testament references to Sarah are in Romans, Galatians and Hebrews.

In Islam, Sarah was the wife of the patriarch and Islamic prophet Abraham and the mother of the prophet Isaac is an honoured woman in the Islamic faith. According to Muslim belief, she was Abraham's first wife. Although not mentioned by name in the Qur'an, she is referenced and alluded to via the story of her husband. She lived with Abraham throughout her life and, although she was barren, God promised her the birth of a prophetic son, Isaac.

Muslim tradition holds that Sarah and Abraham had no children. Abraham, however, prayed constantly to God for a son. Sarah, being barren, subsequently gave him her Egyptian handmaiden, Hājar (Hagar), to wed as his second wife. Hagar bore Ismā'īl (Ishmael), when Abraham was 86. Thirteen years later, God announced to Abraham, now a hundred, that barren Sarah would give birth to a second son, Isaac, who would also be a prophet of the Lord. Although the Qur'an does not mention Sarah by name, it mentions the annunciation of the birth of Isaac. The Qur'an mentions that Sarah laughed when the angels gave her the glad tidings of Isaac, which is perhaps why the name Isaac has the root meaning of 'laughter'.
There came Our messengers to Abraham with glad tidings. They said, 'Peace!' He answered, 'Peace!' and hastened to entertain them with a roasted calf.
But when he saw their hands went not towards the (meal), he felt some mistrust of them, and conceived a fear of them. They said: "Fear not: We have been sent against the people of Lut.
And his wife was standing (there), and she laughed: But we gave her glad tidings of Isaac, and after him, of Jacob.
She said: "Alas for me! shall I bear a child, seeing I am an old woman, and my husband here is an old man? That would indeed be a wonderful thing!"
—Qur'an, Sura 11 (Hud), ayat 69-72
Sarah is believed to be buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs (known by Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham). The compound, located in the ancient city of Hebron, is the second holiest site for Jews (after the Temple Mount in Jerusalem), and is also venerated by Christians and Muslims, both of whom have traditions which maintain that the site is the burial place of three Biblical couples: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. According to the book of Genesis, Abraham purchased the plot of land for her tomb from a man named Ephron the Hittite.

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07 August 2011

Righteous Lot

Lot (Hebrew: לוֹט, Modern Lot Tiberian Lôṭ ; "veil"; "hidden, covered") is a person from the Book of Genesis chapters 11-14 and 19, in the Hebrew Bible. Notable episodes in his life include his travels with his uncle Abram (Abraham, the Patriarch of Israel); his flight from the Kingdom of Sodom, in the course of which Lot's wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt; and the seduction by his daughters so that they could bear children.

Both Christians and Muslims revere Lot as a righteous man of God. The Biblical stories of drunkenness and incest attributed to Lot are absent in the Qur'an, being rejected by Muslims – Lot is venerated as a Prophet of Islam.

Lot and his father Haran were born and raised in "Ur of the Chaldees",[Genesis 11:28,31] in the region of Sumeria on the Euphrates River of lower Mesopotamia, roughly four thousand years ago. Genesis 11:26-32 gives the "generations of Terah", Lot's grandfather, who arranged for their large family to set a course for Canaan where they could reestablish a new home. Among the family members that Lot travelled with was his uncle Abram, who would later be known as Abraham, one of the three patriarchs of Israel.

En route to Canaan, the family stopped in the Paddan Aram region, about halfway along the Fertile Crescent between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. They settled at the site called Haran where Lot’s grandfather, Terah, lived the rest of his days. He was 205 years old when he died. (Genesis 11:32)

Genesis 12 reveals Abram's obedience to the Lord at the age of 75, in continuing his journey to the land of promise. Though Abram’s father, Terah, stayed behind, his nephew Lot went with him.[v.1-4] There is no mention of Lot having a wife yet. They went southwestward into the land of Canaan, to the place of Sichem,[v.5-6] the present day West Bank of Nablus. Later they travelled south to the hills between Bethel and Hai,[v.8] before journeying further toward the south of Canaan.[v.9]

After dwelling in the land of Canaan for a little while, there was a famine, and they journeyed further south into Egypt.[v.10-20] After having dwelt in Egypt for some time, they acquired vast amounts of wealth and livestock, and returned to the Bethel area.[Gen.13:1-5]

Genesis 13 discusses Abram and Lot's return to Canaan after the famine had passed and the lands became fertile again. They traveled back through the Negev to the hills of Bethel.[v.1,3] With their sizeable numbers of livestock and always on the move, both families occupying the same pastures became problematic for the herdsmen who were assigned to each family’s herd.[v.6,7] The conflicts between herdsmen had become so troublesome that Abram lovingly recommended to Lot that they should part ways, lest there be conflict amongst "brethren".[v.8,9]

Although Abram gave Lot the choice of going north (the left hand), in which case he would go south (the right hand), or if Lot chose south, Abram would go north, Lot instead looked before him beyond Jordan and saw a well watered plain, and chose that land, for it was like "the garden of the Lord", before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the formation of the salt sea. (Genesis 13:9-11) Abram then headed south to Hebron, staying within the land of Canaan. (Genesis 13:12,18)

Lot had encamped on the green Jordan plains on the outskirts of the Kingdom of Sodom. He and his family were settled there for about eight years until Genesis 14:1-10 speaks of the rebellion against Elam that broke out. At that time, the king of Sodom, king Bera, was under subjection to the nation of Elam for twelve years, ruled by king Chedorlaomer. A year later, king Bera aligned with neighboring kings to rebel against Chedorlaomer's rule. The next year the two major alliances were joined in battles that involved at least nine kings. One of the battles took place in the vale of Siddim. King Bera of Sodom and king Birsha of Gomorrah, who were allies, took heavy losses and fled, leaving behind their kingdoms for the taking.

All of the foods and goods of Sodom and Gomorrah were seized. Even Lot was taken captive and all of his possessions confiscated, since he was living in the district.[v.11,12] When Abram received news of what had happened to his nephew, he assembled three hundred and eighteen trained servants and went in pursuit to the north to Dan, and then as far as Hobah north of Damascus. Abram and his men caught up with King Chedorlaomer of Elam and defeated him, freeing Lot and recovering all of the possessions that were taken, even the goods and captives from Sodom. Abram returned everything to Sodom and even met King Bera who was much obliged by what he was able to retrieve.[v.13-17] However, Abram's actions were only on behalf of his nephew, and for the vindication of his Lord.[v.14,22] Thus, Abram refused any reward from the King of Sodom, other than the share his three allies were entitled to.[v.21-24]

Twenty four years after Abram and Lot began their sojourning, the Lord changed Abram's name to Abraham, and gave him the covenant of circumcision.[Genesis 17] Not long afterward, "the Lord appeared" to Abraham, for "three men" came to visit and have a meal with him, and after two left to go to Sodom, "Abraham stood yet before the Lord."[Gen.18:1-22] Abraham boldly pleaded on behalf of the people of Sodom, where Lot dwelt, and obtained assurance the city would not be destroyed if fifty righteous were found there. He continued inquiring, reducing the number to forty five, forty, thirty, twenty, and finally if there were ten righteous in the city, it would be spared.[18:23-33]

Genesis 19:1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;
2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.
3 And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.
That night, after supper, just before bedtime, the men of the city rallied up around Lot’s house demanding to "know" their guests which means to have same-sex intercourse. Lot objected, by offering up his virgin daughters to them to do with as they pleased even though they were already matrimonially spoken for. His response infuriated the inhabitants because they didn’t want an alien resident judging them accordingly. Meaning that they refused to have sex with his daughters because they wanted the men who were in Lot's home. Then before they could break into the house, the angels struck the intruders with blindness. This allowed a small window of opportunity for Lot to make preparations for him and his loved ones to leave. (Genesis 19:3-14)

Before dawn arrives, ready or not, they had to leave. Lot tries to convince his daughters betrothed to leave with them but they think he's joking. Lot expressed some hesitancy about leaving, but the angels grabbed the hands of Lot, his wife and two daughters, and brought them out of the city limits giving the orders: "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!" (Genesis 19:16,17)

Initially, Lot was opposed to fleeing to the mountains, so he adamantly requested to take refuge in the small town of Zoar, just beyond Sodom's city limits. Granted his request, while they were en route, in the middle of the night, Lot's wife turned looking back at Sodom disregarding the angel's order and thus was turned into a pillar of salt.(Genesis 19:18-26)

As soon as Lot and his daughters made it to Zoar, at daybreak, the heavens opened up raining down fire and sulfur upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah until they were completely and utterly destroyed, including all surrounding properties.[v.23-25] Even from where Abraham was, in an elevated region, he could see the dense smoke billowing up into the heavens from the ruined cities.[v.27,28]

Lot became very much afraid by the destruction of Sodom and felt that his safety in Zoar was just as much in jeopardy. With the loss of his wife on the back of his mind, he decided that it would be best to retreat to the mountains as was originally asked of him by the angels of deliverance. There, they found a suitable cave to dwell in.[v.30]

Here was a family who at one time had everything. They had livestock, wealth from Egypt, and a large family. With the destruction of their city came huge losses: their home and all of their possessions, each of the girl’s fiancés,[Gen.19:14] and most notably the loss of a wife who was mother. Now, they are nothing but three cave dwellers.

They spent a long time in seclusion and they were aging. The oldest daughter had become concerned about preserving their family line and suggested to her younger sister that since there are no men around, they ought to take advantage of their father.[v.31,32]

Thus, the daughters got their father so drunk they were able to have intercourse with him on two consecutive nights, the oldest daughter having her way with him the first night, followed by the youngest daughter on the following night.[v.31-35] Interestingly, the text says that Lot was so drunk “he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.”[v.33,35] This text suggests a justification for an action that was not considered normal.

In their age, it was not unusual for interfamily members to marry. In fact, it was customary amongst nieces and nephews[Gen.11:27,29] in order to keep pure bloodlines, even such as Abraham who had married his half-sister.[Gen.20:11,12] However, in the case of Lot and his daughters, it was obviously not a favorable option for what the girls had done, based on the justification of Gen.19:33,35. Subsequently, considering the circumstances of their plight and surviving the bloodlines, the girls felt that there was no other choice.[v.31] As a result, a child was born to each of them.[v.36] To the oldest daughter, she conceived Moab (Hebrew, lit., "from the father" [meh-Av]), father of the Moabites.[v.37] To the youngest daughter she conceived, Ben-Ammi (Hebrew, lit., "Son of my people"), father of the Ammonites.[v.38]

The incest that occurred between Lot and his daughters has raised many questions, debates and theories as to what the real motives were, who really was at fault, and the level of bias the author of Genesis Chapter 19 had. However, biblical scholars such as Jacob Milgrom, Victor P. Hamilton, and Cakum Carmichael, postulate that the Levitical Laws could not have been developed the way they were, without controversial issues surrounding the Patriarchs of Israel, especially in regards to incest. Carmichael even attributes the entire formulation of the Levitical laws on the lives of the founding fathers of the nation, such as: Abraham, Jacob, Judah, Moses and David who were outstanding figures in Israelite tradition, including the righteous Lot.

According to the above mentioned scholars, the Patriarchs of Israel are the key to understanding how the Priestly laws concerning incest has developed. Incest amongst the patriarchs are as follows: Abraham marries his half-sister; Sarai[Gen.20:11,12] Abraham's brother, Nahor, marries their niece; Milcah [Gen.11:27-29] Isaac marries Rebekah his first cousin, once removed;[Gen.27:42,43;29:10] Jacob marries two sisters who are his first cousins [Gen.29:10,Ch.29] and Moses's parents are nephew and aunt (father's sister).[Exod.6:20] Therefore, it surely mattered to the lawgiver how the issues of incest pertained to these Patriarchs and they are the basis for the laws of the Book of Leviticus chapters 18 and 20.

There are other scholars who also state that the Levitical laws against incest were created to separate the lifestyle of the Israelite from the sinful lifestyle of the cursed people of Canaan,[Gen.9:22-28] despite any incestual involvements the Patriarchs had in the past. The Levitical laws were needed for a developing nation who needed to be seen as different from the world, cleansed and blameless: The first step starting with circumcision.[Gen.17:1,10;Ch.17] So nothing could be held against the Patriarchs for incestuous behavior because this was part of progressive development, from the ways of the world (coming out of Chaldea) to becoming blameless before their God.[Gen.17:1]

In the Bereshit of the Torah, Lot is first mentioned at the end of the weekly reading portion, Parashat Noach. The weekly reading portions that follow, concerning all of the accounts of Lot's life, are read in the Parashat Lekh Lekha and Parashat Vayera.

In the Midrash, a number of additional stories concerning Lot are present, not found in the Tanakh, as follows:

Abraham took care of Lot after Haran was burned in a gigantic fire in which Nimrod, King of Babylon, tried to kill Abraham.

While in Egypt, the Midrash gives Lot much credit because, despite his desire for wealth, he did not inform Pharaoh of Sarah's secret, that she was Abraham's wife.

Despite Lot's flaws, Christians view him as a righteous man and draw upon New Testament scriptures that make direct references to his day, such as:

In Luke 17:20-32, the Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. This triggered a topic that Jesus addressed his disciples about, concerning "the days of the Son of Man". In his discourse, he likened this time to the days of Lot and reminded his followers about what happened to this man's wife.

Simon Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, reminded the Early Christians about Sodom and Gomorrah and spoke of Lot as being a righteous man amongst the wicked...
"and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)"
- 2 Peter 2:6-8 (NKJV)
Lut or Lot (Arabic: لوط‎) (circa 1900 BC?), is the Islamic version of the Hebrew Bible's Lot. He is considered to be a messenger of Islam and an Islamic prophet in the Qur'an.

According to Islamic tradition, Lut lived in Ur and was a nephew of Ibrahim (Abraham). He migrated with Abraham to Canaan in Palestine. He was commissioned as a prophet to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. His story is used as a reference by Muslims to demonstrate Islam's strong disapproval of homosexuality. He was commanded by God to go to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah to preach to his people on monotheism and to stop them from their lustful and violent acts. Lot's messages were ignored by the inhabitants, thus, Sodom and Gomorrah were subsequently destroyed.

Some major differences between the story of Lot in the Qur'an and the story of Lot in the Bible is that the Hebrew version of Lot's wife leaves Sodom with her husband, looks back, and is turned into a pillar of salt. In the Qur'an, Lot's wife stays behind in the city and is destroyed.

The Hebrew text also includes the subsequent story of Lot being induced to incestuous relations with his own daughters. The Qur'an says that Lot is a prophet, and holds that all prophets were examples of moral and spiritual rectitude. Though clear in the Hebrew story that Lot did not consent to this action, in Islam these stories of incest are considered to be false.

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06 August 2011

The Sons of Noah: Japheth, Shem, Ham

The Seventy Nations or Sons of Noah is an extensive list of descendants of Noah appearing in Genesis 10 of the Hebrew Bible, representing an ethnology from an Iron Age Levantine perspective. The significance of Noah in this context is that, according to Genesis, the population of the Earth was completely destroyed during the Flood because of the wickedness of the inhabitants, and Noah and his family were the sole eight survivors to continue the human race. The view of history presented by the Bible is thus that all humans on Earth are descended from Noah's family, and thereby related.

Genesis 10 suggests that the present population of the world was descended from Noah's three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives. This is taken by many as historical fact by many Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Christians, and Orthodox Muslims.

There are disputes about how many of the peoples of the Earth this story was intended to cover, and as to its accuracy. Jews, Christians, and Muslims retain the belief that the table applies to the entire population of the earth.

In the Biblical view, the listed children of Japheth, Shem and Ham correspond to various historic nations and peoples. In the typical interpretation, these sons of Noah correspond to three races: European, Semitic, and African. Alternate divisions claim Euro-Asian Japhet, Semitic Shem, and Afro-Asian Ham.
According to Genesis 10, Noah had three sons:
  1. Ham, forefather of the southern peoples (Hamitic)
  2. Shem, forefather of the middle peoples (Semitic)
  3. Japheth, forefather of the northern peoples (Japhetic Eurasia)
The names of these sons are thought to have significance related to Semitic roots. Ham means "warm". Shem merely means "name" or "renown", "prosperity". Japheth means "open".
In the view of some 17th century European scholars (e.g., John Webb), the people of China and India descended from Shem. Both Webb and the French Jesuits belonging to the Figurist school (late 17th-early 18th century) went even further, identifying the legendary Emperor Yao of Chinese history with Noah himself.

There exist various traditions in post-biblical sources claiming that Noah had children other than Shem, Ham, and Japheth — born variously before, during, or after the Deluge.

According to the Quran (Hud v. 42–43), Noah had another unnamed son who refused to come aboard the Ark, instead preferring to climb a mountain, where he drowned. Some later Islamic commentators give his name as either Yam or Kan'an.
According to Irish mythology, as found in the Annals of the Four Masters and elsewhere, Noah had another son named Bith, who was not allowed aboard the Ark, and who attempted to colonise Ireland with 54 persons, only to be wiped out in the Deluge.

Some 9th century manuscripts of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles assert that Sceafa was the fourth son of Noah, born aboard the Ark, from whom the House of Wessex traced their ancestry; in William of Malmesbury's version of this genealogy (c. 1120), Sceaf is instead made a descendant of Strephius, the fourth son born aboard the Ark (Gesta Regnum Anglorum).

An early Arabic work known as Kitab al-Magall or the Book of Rolls (part of Clementine literature) mentions Bouniter, the fourth son of Noah, born after the flood, who allegedly invented astronomy and instructed Nimrod. Variants of this story with often similar names for Noah's fourth son are also found in the ca. 5th century Ge'ez work Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan (Barvin), the ca. 6th century Syriac book Cave of Treasures (Yonton), the 7th century Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius (Ionitus), the Syriac Book of the Bee 1221 (Yônatôn), the Hebrew Chronicles of Jerahmeel, ca. 12th–14th cent. (Jonithes), and throughout Armenian apocryphal literature, where he is usually referred to as Maniton; as well as in works by Petrus Comestor c. 1160 (Jonithus), Godfrey of Viterbo 1185 (Ihonitus), Michael the Syrian 1196 (Maniton), Abu Salih the Armenian c. 1208 (Abu Naiţur); Jacob van Maerlant c. 1270 (Jonitus), and Abraham Zacuto 1504 (Yoniko).

Martin of Opava (c. 1250), later versions of the Mirabilia Urbis Romae, and the Chronicon Bohemorum of Giovanni di Marignola (1355) make Janus (i.e., the Roman deity) the fourth son of Noah, who moved to Italy, invented astrology, and instructed Nimrod.

According to the monk Annio da Viterbo (1498), the Hellenistic Babylonian writer Berossus had mentioned 30 children born to Noah after the Deluge, including sons named Tuiscon, Prometheus, Iapetus, Macrus, "16 titans", Cranus, Granaus, Oceanus, and Tipheus. Also mentioned are daughters of Noah named Araxa "the Great", Regina, Pandora, Crana, and Thetis. However, Annio's manuscript is widely regarded today as having been a forgery.

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05 August 2011

Noah's Ark and the Global Flood of All Religions

Noah's Ark (Hebrew: תֵּבַת נֹחַ‎, Tebhath Noaḥ in Classical Hebrew) is a vessel appearing in the Book of Genesis (chapters 6-9) and the Quran (surahs Hud and Al-Mu’minoon]). These narratives tell us that the ark was built by Noah at God's command to save himself, his family, and the world's animals from the worldwide deluge of the Great Flood.

In the narrative of the Ark, God sees the wickedness of man and is grieved by his creation, resolving to send a great flood to cleanse the Earth. However, he sees that Noah is a man "righteous in his generation," and gives him detailed instructions on how to construct a seaworthy Ark. When Noah and the animals are safe on board, God sends the Flood, which rises until all the mountains are covered and all life on Earth is destroyed. At the height of the flood, the Ark rests on the tops of mountains, the waters recede, and dry land reappears. Noah, his family, and the animals leave the Ark to repopulate the Earth. God places a symbolic rainbow in the sky and makes a covenant with Noah and all living things, by which he vows to never again send a flood to destroy the Earth.

The narrative of the Ark has been subject to extensive study by adherents of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as other Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic faiths. Such studies range from hypothetical solutions to practical problems (such as the issues of waste disposal and lighting the Ark's interior), to theological and metaphoric interpretations (with the Ark being seen as the spiritual precursor of the Church in offering salvation to mankind). The account of the Ark is traditionally accepted as historical. Many continue to explore the mountains of Ararat in present-day Turkey, where the Bible says the Ark came to rest, in search of the vessel.

God observes that humanity is corrupt and decides to destroy all life. But Noah "was a righteous man, blameless in his generation, [and] Noah walked with God," and so God gives him instructions for the Ark, into which he is told to bring "two of every sort [of animal]...male and female ... everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life," and their food.

God instructs Noah to board the Ark with his family, seven pairs of the birds and the clean animals, and one pair of the unclean animals. "On the same day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened, and the rain was upon the earth," and God closes up the door of the Ark. The flood begins, and the waters prevail until all the high mountains are covered fifteen cubits deep, and all the people and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens are blotted out from the earth, and only Noah and those with him in the Ark remain.

Then "God remembered Noah," and causes his wind to blow, and the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens are closed, and the rain is restrained, and the waters abate, and in the seventh month the Ark rests on the mountains of Ararat. In the tenth month the tops of the mountains are seen, and Noah sends out a raven and a dove to see if the waters have subsided; the raven flies "to and fro" but the dove returns with a fresh olive leaf in her beak. Noah waits seven days more and sends out the dove again, and this time it does not return.

When the land is dry, God tells Noah to leave the Ark, and Noah offers a sacrifice to God. God resolves never again to curse the earth, "for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth." God grants to Noah and his sons the right to kill animals and eat their meat, but forbids meat which has not been drained of its blood. Blood is proclaimed sacred, and the unauthorised taking of life is prohibited: "For your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man...Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." Then God establishes his covenant with Noah and his sons and with all living things, and places the rainbow in the clouds, "the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."

In the last centuries BC and the first centuries AD, the Jewish rabbis, the interpreters of Jewish law and tradition, turned their attention to the story of Noah's Ark. Their teachings were collected in the Talmud, which dates from between 200 and 500 AD. The individual volumes of the Talmud are known as Tractates.

Tractates Sanhedrin, Avoda Zarah and Zevahim relate that, while Noah was building the Ark, he attempted to warn his neighbors of the coming deluge, but was ignored or mocked. In order to protect Noah and his family, God placed lions and other ferocious animals to guard them from the wicked who tried to stop them from entering the Ark. According to one Midrash, it was God, or the angels, who gathered the animals to the Ark, together with their food. As there had been no need to distinguish between clean and unclean animals before this time, the clean animals made themselves known by kneeling before Noah as they entered the Ark. A differing opinion said that the Ark itself distinguished clean animals from unclean, admitting seven pairs each of the former and one pair each of the latter.

According to Sanhedrin 108B, Noah was engaged both day and night in feeding and caring for the animals, and did not sleep for the entire year aboard the Ark. The animals were the best of their species, and so behaved with utmost goodness. They abstained from procreation, so that the number of creatures that disembarked was exactly equal to the number that embarked. The raven created problems, refusing to go out of the Ark when Noah sent it forth and accusing the patriarch of wishing to destroy its race, but as the commentators pointed out, God wished to save the raven, for its descendants were destined to feed the prophet Elijah.

According to one tradition, refuse was stored on the lowest of the Ark's three decks, humans and clean beasts on the second, and the unclean animals and birds on the top; a differing opinion placed the refuse in the utmost story, from where it was shoveled into the sea through a trapdoor. Precious stones, bright as midday, provided light, and God ensured that food was kept fresh.
St. Hippolytus of Rome, (d. 235), seeking to demonstrate that "the ark was a symbol of the Christ who was expected", stated that the vessel had its door on the east side - the direction from which Christ would appear at the Second Coming - and that the bones of Adam were brought aboard, together with gold, frankincense and myrrh (the symbols of the Nativity of Christ). Hippolytus furthermore stated that the Ark floated to and fro in the four directions on the waters, making the sign of the cross, before eventually landing on Mount Kardu "in the east, in the land of the sons of Raban, and the Orientals call it Mount Godash; the Armenians call it Ararat". On a more practical plane, Hippolytus explained that the ark was built in three stories, the lowest for wild beasts, the middle for birds and domestic animals, and the top level for humans, and that the male animals were separated from the females by sharp stakes so that there would be no cohabitation aboard the vessel.

The early Church Father and theologian Origen (c. 182 - 251) produced a learned argument about cubits, in response to a critic who doubted that the Ark could contain all the animals in the world. Origen held that Moses, the traditional author of the book of Genesis, had been brought up in Egypt and would therefore have used the larger Egyptian cubit.
Early Christian artists depicted Noah standing in a small box on the waves, symbolizing God saving the church as it persevered through turmoil. St. Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430), in his work City of God, demonstrated that the dimensions of the Ark corresponded to the dimensions of the human body, which is the body of Christ, which is in turn the Church. St. Jerome (c. 347 - 420) called the raven, which was sent forth and did not return, the "foul bird of wickedness" expelled by baptism; more enduringly, the dove and olive branch came to symbolize the Holy Spirit and the hope of salvation and, eventually, peace. The olive branch remains a symbol of peace today.

Noah (Nuh in Arabic) is one of the five principal prophets of Islam. References to him are scattered through the Qur'an, with the fullest account being found in surah Hud (11:27–51). As a prophet, Noah preached to his people, but with little success; only "a few"[11:40] of them converted (traditionally thought to be seventy). Noah prayed for deliverance, and Allah told him to build a ship in preparation for the flood. A son (named either 'Kan'an' or 'Yam' depending on the source) was among those drowned, despite Noah pleading with him to leave the disbelievers and join him (Surah Hud, 42-43).

In contrast to the Jewish tradition, which uses a term which can be translated as a "box" or "chest" to describe the Ark, surah 29:14 refers to it as a safina, an ordinary ship, and surah 54:13 describes the Ark as "a thing of boards and nails". `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas, a contemporary of Muhammad, wrote that Noah was in doubt as to what shape to make the Ark, and that Allah revealed to him that it was to be shaped like a bird's belly and fashioned of teak wood.

Abdallah ibn 'Umar al-Baidawi, writing in the 13th century, gives the length of the Ark as 300 cubits (157 m, 515 ft) by 50 (26.2 m, 86 ft) in width, 30 cubits (15.7 m, 52 ft) in height, and explains that in the first of the three levels wild and domesticated animals were lodged, in the second the human beings, and in the third the birds. On every plank was the name of a prophet. Three missing planks, symbolizing three prophets, were brought from Egypt by Og, son of Anak, the only one of the giants permitted to survive the Flood. The body of Adam was carried in the middle to divide the men from the women. Surah 11:41 says: "And he said, 'Ride ye in it; in the Name of Allah it moves and stays!'"; this was taken to mean that Noah said, "In the Name of Allah!" when he wished the Ark to move, and the same when he wished it to stand still.

Noah spent five or six months aboard the Ark, at the end of which he sent out a raven. But the raven stopped to feast on carrion, and so Noah cursed it and sent out the dove, which has been known ever since as the friend of mankind. The medieval scholar Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn Masudi (d. 956) wrote that Allah commanded the earth to absorb the water, and certain portions which were slow in obeying received salt water in punishment and so became dry and arid. The water which was not absorbed formed the seas, so that the waters of the flood still exist. Masudi says that the Ark began its voyage at Kufa in central Iraq and sailed to Mecca, circling the Kaaba before finally traveling to Mount Judi (in Arabic also referred to as "high place, hill), which surah 11:44 states was its final resting place. This mountain is identified by tradition with a hill near the town of Jazirat ibn Umar on the east bank of the Tigris in the province of Mosul in northern Iraq, and Masudi says that the spot where it came to rest could be seen in his time.

Noah left the Ark, and he and his family and companions built a town at the foot of Mount Judi, named Thamanin ("eighty") in reference to their number. Noah then locked the Ark and entrusted the keys to Shem. Yaqut al-Hamawi (1179–1229) mentions a mosque built by Noah which could be seen in his day. Some modern Muslims, although not generally active in searching for the Ark, believe that it still exists on the high slopes of the mountain.

The Bahá'í Faith regards the Ark and the Flood as also symbolic. In Bahá'í belief, only Noah's followers were spiritually alive, preserved in the "ark" of his teachings, as others were spiritually dead. The Bahá'í scripture Kitáb-i-Íqán endorses the Islamic belief that Noah had a large number of companions on the Ark, either 40 or 72, as well as his family, and that he taught for 950 years before the flood.

In Hindu mythology, texts like the Satapatha Brahmana mention the story of a great flood, wherein the Matsya Avatar of Vishnu warns the first man, Manu, of the impending flood, and also advises him to build a giant boat.
The 19th century also saw the growth of Middle Eastern archaeology and the first translations into English of ancient Mesopotamian records. The Assyriologist George Smith achieved world-wide fame with his translation of the Babylonian account of the Great Flood, which he read before the Society of Biblical Archaeology on December 3, 1872. Further discoveries brought to light several versions of the Mesopotamian flood-myth, with the closest to Genesis 6-9 being found in a 7th-century-BC Babylonian copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh: the hero Gilgamesh meets the immortal man Utnapishtim, who tells how the god Ea warned him to build a huge vessel in which to save himself, his family, and his friends and animals, from a great flood by which the gods intended to destroy the world.
As the Flood rises, it wipes out the work of Creation, each month of the Flood corresponding to the matching day of Creation. Just as God on the second day of the world placed the firmament to separate the Earth from waters above and below, so in the second month of Noah's 600th year God opens the floodgates of Heaven and the fountains of the Deep and allows the waters to return; just as the work of Creation was completed on the sixth day, when all living things were ready for man, so the Flood rises for a further five months (the 150 days of Genesis 7:24) until the sixth month, when "everything that had the breath of life in its nostrils, everything that was on the earth, died"; and as God rested on the seventh day, so the Ark rests on the mountaintops on the seventh month. The "wind from God" which passed over the waters of Chaos at the very beginning of Creation (in Genesis 1:2) passes over the waters again, and the world is re-created as the waters dry from the land, until in the fourteenth month men and creatures exit the Ark, and Noah enters into the first Covenant with God.

The Ark is said to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high, and has three decks; it is therefore three times the height of the Tabernacle and three times the area of the Tabernacle forecourt, suggesting that the biblical authors saw both structures serving the same purpose, the preservation of humankind for God's plan. The dimensions betray a numerological preoccupation with the number sixty, one which it shares with the Babylonian Ark: Noah's Ark is 60x5=300 cubits long and 60÷2=30 cubits high.

Although the Book of Genesis in the Bible does not give any further information about the four women it says were aboard Noah's Ark during the Flood, there exist substantial extra-Biblical traditions regarding these women and their names.

In the Book of Jubilees, known to have been in use from the late 2nd century BC, the names of the wives of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth are as follows:
  • Wife of Noah - Emzara, daughter of Rake'el, son of Methuselah
  • Wife of Shem - Sedeqetelebab
  • Wife of Ham - Ne'elatama'uk or Na'eltama'uk
  • Wife of Japheth - 'Adataneses
It adds that the three sons after some years struck out in different directions from the original camp near Mount Ararat and founded three villages bearing the names of these three mothers of the human race.

The early Christian writer St. Hippolytus (d. 235 AD) recounted a tradition of their names according to the Syriac Targum that is similar to Jubilees, although apparently switching the names of Shem's and Ham's wives. He wrote: The names of the wives of the sons of Noah are these: the name of the wife of Sem, Nahalath Mahnuk; and the name of the wife of Cham, Zedkat Nabu; and the name of the wife of Japheth, Arathka. He also recounts a quaint legend concerning the wife of Ham: God having instructed Noah to destroy the first person who announced that the deluge was beginning, Ham's wife at that moment was baking bread, when water suddenly rushed forth from the oven, destroying the bread. When she exclaimed then that the deluge was commencing, God suddenly cancels his former command lest Noah destroy his own daughter-in-law who was to be saved.

An early Arabic work known as Kitab al-Magall or the Book of Rolls (part of Clementine literature), the Syriac Book of the Cave of Treasures (ca. 350), and Patriarch Eutychius of Alexandria (ca. 930) all agree in naming Noah's wife as "Haykêl, the daughter of Namûs (or Namousa), the daughter of Enoch, the brother of Methuselah"; the first of these sources elsewhere calls Haikal "the daughter of Mashamos, son of Enoch", while stating that Shem's wife is called "Leah, daughter of Nasih".

Furthermore, the Panarion of Epiphanius (ca. 375) names Noah's wife as Barthenos, while the ca. 5th century Ge'ez work Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan calls Noah's wife "Haikal, the daughter of Abaraz, of the daughters of the sons of Enos" — whom some authors have connected with Epiphanius' Barthenos (i.e., Bath-Enos, daughter of Enos). However, Jubilees makes "Betenos" the name of Noah's mother. The word haykal is Syriac for "temple" or "church"; in the Georgian copy of Cave of Treasures, we find instead the name T'ajar, which is the Georgian word for the same.

Armenian tradition give the name of Noah's wife as Nemzar, Noyemzar or Noyanzar.

Patriarch Eutychius of Alexandria, writing in Arabic, also states that Shem's wife was Salit, Ham's Nahlat and Japheth's Arisisah, all daughters of Methuselah. The theologian John Gill (1697–1771) wrote in his Exposition of the Bible of this tradition "that the name of Shem's wife was Zalbeth, or, as other copies, Zalith or Salit; that the name of Ham's Nahalath; and of Japheth's Aresisia."

A manuscript of the 8th century Latin work Inventiones Nominum, copies of which have been found at the Abbey of St. Gall in Switzerland, and in a library at Albi, SW France, lists as Noah's wife Set, as Shem's wife Nora, as Ham's wife Sare, and as Japeth's wife Serac.

Mandaean literature, of uncertain antiquity, refers to Noah's wife by the name Nuraita (or Nhuraitha, Anhuraita, various other spellings).

The Miautso people of China preserved in their traditions the name of Noah's wife as Gaw Bo-lu-en.

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