Tammi Schneider responds to Two's Company the other experts say

Writing as a biblical scholar I can state with all honesty that Emily has done her homework. The end of Noah's story is a bit confusing and I am not convinced that her take on it should be dismissed. I am a particular fan of Emily's position on the middle in general (the missing chicken) and her interpretation is certainly one that works. For purposes of this exercise I will provide a few comments on the story from the position of someone who actually reads the bible for work.

One element that I would disagree with Emily about is that the book is only a "Good Book" and not a "Great" one. The Hebrew Bible is a GREAT book, the problem is that people are so convinced that every story is about ethics and morals and that the "heros" of the story, like Noah, Abraham, and Moses, to name only a few, are always the "good guys" that they miss some of the other elements of the story. When one actually reads the text carefully it becomes clear that some of the "good guys" are not so great, and almost all the human characters are horribly flawed, but why should that surprise us? Another major issue in the Hebrew Bible, especially in Genesis, is who is sleeping with whom. Read the book of Genesis and know that when men "take" women, your translation may imply "marriage" but the term in Hebrew usually carries more of a sense of "consummation" (wink wink) then anything having to do with a marriage license.

Emily is quite right about the beginning of the story of Noah. The only incident prior to Noah's that could possibly lead up to the deity's wrath over the situation is the arrival of these Nephilimcharacters. These characters are the descendants of the sons of gods cohabiting with the daughters of men. The discussion about the origin of the Nephilim is intertwined with the length of human life and thus what might be at issue is that gods, who at least in Mesopotamia live forever in stark contrast to humans, are sleeping around with humans, who have a limited life span. Genesis is particularly concerned with who sleeps together and the "problem" with these unions might be that there is mismatch in lifespans.

The Nephilim seem to be the cause for the deity's decision to send the flood to wipe out everything on earth, with the exception of what Noah takes with him in the ark. Emily is correct that Noah is a "righteous" man but the biblical text qualifies it adding that he was "blameless in his age." So, Noah may have been "righteous" but the text seems to be letting us know that everything is relative and he did not have much competition.

After the whole flood nightmare Noah becomes the first person to plant a vineyard. The Hebrew Bible has no problem with alcohol and drinking, in fact, most of the time it is a good thing. The problem seems to be excess. Noah had too much. This then leads to the nakedness situation.

The Hebrew Bible doesn't have trouble with drinking, and it does not really even have trouble with sex, as long as the right people are doing it together at the right time in the right situation. This is where the problem with Noah seems to creep in, though Emily rightly notes that the text does not add anywhere that he actually has sex with anyone. What the Hebrew Bible does seem to have issues with is nakedness. Seldom is there an incident where a person is naked and it does not lead to trouble (just ask Bathsheba). Noah's drunken state led him to be naked.

Where sex might be an issue is who is cursed in the situation. Ham, the one who "saw" and told his brothers about it, is not really cursed, his future descendant Canaan is. Canaan clearly becomes a problem for later Israel since Canaan's descendants are in the land that the deity promises to the Israelites, creating a bit of a situation for the books of Joshua and Judges. Some scholars wonder what it was about the Canaanites that was so terrible that the deity demanded their extermination at the hand of the Israelites. One possibility is that the Canaanites were too sexually perverse, and many of the stories of Genesis are there to "prove" it. Other instances of their perversity are the stories about the cities of Sodom and Gemorrah (Genesis 19), and the rape of Dinah (Genesis 34).

As a fan of the middle of the road I love Emily's treatment of the story and I am not convinced that anything included here "disproves" her take on it. In fact, I invite her take on this story:: much later in the Torah, in the book of Numbers (13:33) when Moses sends out scouts to check out the land, the scouts, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, complain that the people in Canaan were Nephilim. They are also associated with some people called Anakites. Clearly the implication is that these people are very large, since the comparison is that the Israelites look like grasshoppers compared to them. The Anakites appear later as gigantic type of people but the Numbers reference is the last to the Nephilim themselves. The problem seems to be that if the Nephilim were wiped out in the flood how could they still be in Canaan in the book of Numbers? Current theory says that the Numbers reference seems not to designate semi-divine creatures but rather humans who are significantly larger than the Israelites thereby instilling great fear into the scouts, therefore the connection to the Anakites rather than the sons of gods. The reference to Nephilim in Numbers is thus more of a dramatic touch by the Israelite scouts to emphasize how difficult taking the land will be rather than a reference to the existence to these people that were the reason the flood was sent in the first place. What does the Crackpot theory say?

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About Tammy Schneider

Author Stephen Mitchell says, "Crackpot? Your theory seems entirely reasonable to me. As a matter of fact, the Tao Te Ching elucidates it perfectly in its 42nd chapter." Read on
Rabbi Jen Krause responds, "Here's the flaw in the threesome theory: the Bible is a basically patriarchal narrative. If Noah had been engaging in said act, Ham would probably have been rewarded for telling the tale." Read on