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Biblical Creationism: The Genesis Toledoth

July 23, 2013

I’ve started reading Biblical Creationism (by Henry Morris), a good biblical commentary on all the scriptural references to the doctrine of creation: an extensive study going way beyond the obvious texts such as Genesis 1-2 and Psalm 104.  Read it free from the PDF online).

The very first chapter introduced an unfamiliar idea (to me), and thus prompted a little background study before continuing forward.  Having always heard that Moses authored the Pentateuch, the five books of the Bible, I never considered further details of how Genesis was written, but just assumed that the material was given directly to Moses by God.  Yet Morris refers to Adam writing a few chapters, and then Noah and so forth, with reference to the “book of the generations of Adam,” as meaning the previous chapters (not what follows immediately after Genesis 5:1).  The first endnote gives a little more explanation:

The archaeologist P.J. Wiseman was apparently the first to call attention to this “tablet theory” of the original writing of the records in Genesis that were eventually compiled and edited by Moses. A number of later Old Testament scholars (e.g., David L. Cooper, founder of the Biblical Research Society) have adopted it, and I consider it the only theory that fits all the facts. For a summary of the evidence for this theory, see my commentary, The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976), p. 22–30.

This online article explained the matter: the meaning and usage of the Hebrew word translated “generations” (toledoth) and the tablet theory. (See also this article for further reference.)  These articles and Henry Morris reference the initial work done by archeologist P.J. Wiseman in the 1930s.  The Hebrew word toledoth (generations) is also considered a “colophon phrase,” something put in ancient documents AFTER the material it refers to:

Many Bible scholars have long considered the toledoth formula  “the book of the generations of” to be the introduction or heading to what followed. However, in more recent years they have come to realize that the toledoth is, in fact, a colophon phrase. That is, this phrase when used in Genesis is used “to point back to the origins of the family history.” According to Damien F. Mackey this was a common practice in Mesopotamia where “It was customary for the ancient scribes to add a colophon note at the end of the account, giving particulars of title, date, and the name of the writer or owner, together with other details relating to the contents of a tablet, manuscript or book.” …”in ancient documents the colophon with its important literary information was added in a very distinctive manner.”

Learning this, I immediately thought of another of these toledoth usages that had puzzled me, that suddenly makes a lot more sense:  the statement at the beginning of Genesis 37 (which begins the story of Joseph), verse 2: “These are the generations of Jacob” (ESV) or “These are the records of the generations of Jacob” (NASB).  Referring to the previous material, Jacob’s story, that statement makes a lot more sense than saying that Jacob is telling Joseph’s story.  The first chapter of Morris’ Biblical Creationism now makes much more sense, and I’m continuing on to further chapters in this creation commentary, already learning interesting things about biblical creation — from the human means of written records from early history.

Additional resources:

P.J. Wiseman – Free PDF book “New Discoveries In Babylonia About Genesis” (4th Edition, 1946)

Other article links:

The Tablet Theory of Genesis Authorship

Review of Wiseman’s “Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis”  (out of print; no e-book available)

  1. July 23, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Thank you very much Lynda for these interesting resources,

    • July 24, 2013 at 7:36 am

      Thanks, bography.

  2. Daniel Pech
    June 24, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    Hi Lynda,

    This may be not quite on-topic, but it does center on Morris’s commentary on Genesis 2 that consists in his section titled ‘The Book of Adam’.

    What do you think about Morris’s take as to the practical and interactive relationship between God and Adam in Genesis 2?

    I’ve spent hundreds of hours analyzing what Morris says in that section concerning that relationship. I think Morris is reducing the pre-Fall, and pre-Eve, Adam to something of an odd mixture of great intelligence, on one hand, and utter, Blank Slate senselessness on the other hand. In other words, I think Morris is reducing Adam to Morris’s own personal and ‘educated’ view of things, in that Morris (I presume) sees the practical and interactive relationship between God and the pre-Eve Adam as that between a merely academically capable mind (Adam) and the kind of ‘school teacher’ (God) that was thought ideal during the height of the Blank Slate and micro-managed Factory Model era.

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