If I said "Lilith" does it mean anything to you?
Today we are going to look at the mythology of this famous icon, and we'll examine if it has some impact our our perception of the composition of ourselves. Hang onto your seats, because the post will zig and zag, but I'll be arguing that long before evolution came on the scene, there was the widespread acceptance that there could be beings that looked like humans, but had no soul. Then I will argue that by taking this view, we can reconcile scripture to science, and restore a true Biblical basis for the sanctity of life.
Ready? Let's go.
We'll start with a painting of Lilith by John Collier, who was one of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of painters. I debated for a while if I wanted to post a bit of a risque painting, but it is illustrative of the myth of Lilith in popular culture in 1892. This painting speaks to an old tradition of Lilith in the Garden of Eden, and having a close relationship with the Devil (pictured here as a snake.)
However, we do not need to go back even 100 years to see Lilith in our culture. Sarah McLachlan created a touring rock and roll venue for three years. The name of this event? Lilith Fair, named after the Jewish Lilith. So we can see that Lilith was in popular culture in 1997.
As a matter of fact, Lilith is even at the edges of mainstream Christian culture. George MacDonald, who was a Christian and influenced CS Lewis's writing greatly, wrote about the Lilith as the Jewish Legend in his book "Lilith."
We can turn back the clock to the renaissance, and see that even the Church of the time had artistic references to Lilith. Michaelangelo's has a picture of Lilith in the Sistine Chapel, which is seen in the second picture in this blog below. For Michaelangelo, he pictured Lilith as the snake in the garden. In this instance, Lilith was Satan's instrument having been transformed into a serpent. However, you should be able to see the strong similarities from the painting by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, and the paintings to follow him 400 years later.
Where did Lilith come from? We arent' sure, but the first recorded Jewish history is The Alphabet of Ben Sira (800 AD). This work consists of a compilation of earlier sayings and a commentary on these sayings. In one of these commentaries in this writing, the story of Lilith is told. I tend to believe that since much of the book simply captures previous oral history, Lilith probably existed outside of this work orally.
In the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith is portrayed as the first wife of Adam. The story does not conflict the Biblical account, but supplements it with a mythical creature. If you lived in this time, you would have heard the entire story as such: Adam was created first out of the ground. God used him to work the garden. God noticed that Adam was lonely, so he formed another creature out of the dirt and brought him to Adam. This woman rejected the authority of Adam, and said that she would not live with him. She was banished from the garden, but also cursed to kill children. Eve was formed from Adam's side as not to be rebellious but a partner.
Now it has even been debated that Lilith is found in Isaiah 34:14 (translated in most versions as "owl" for the word Lilith), the real fleshing out of the Lilith legend came in The Alphabet of Ben Sira (800 CE). This really is not clear, but it is clear that Lilith probably was stolen from the Sumerian culture. So it appeared that the Jews probably stole the the framework of Lilith, and brought it into their own culture.
So, if we look at what Lilith was, we would say, "Lilith was an example of another created being that was a contemporary to Adam and Eve, but did not come from Adam and Eve."
By this time in the posting, you may be asking "why are you talking about Lilith? This has no basis in the Bible."
This is not about the idea that there was a Lilith. It is that the Bible story can be read to allow other beings to exist at the same time as Adam and Eve. When people would read the Bible, they saw open gaps in the text that allowed another mythology to creep in.
Long before the idea of evolution, multiple people thought that other beings could have existed at the same time as Adam, and these beings would look like a human.
You might say, "well this is just a reimagining of the Biblical account. I think that is like the Gnostic Gospels that come up with a different Christ."
So, let's ignore the popular myth of Lilith, and let's turn our thoughts toward Orthodox teachers of the Jewish faith.
Moses Maimonides, a highly respected Jewish Rabbi who was born in 1135 AD, spoke to some of this. His best know work "Guide for The Perplexed" addresses the thought about if there were creatures without a soul. In his writing he talks about this, and he bluntly states that there could be creatures without souls. I list a section from his writing below:
And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat (va-yoled) a son in his own likeness, in his form" (Gen. V. 3). As regards the words, "the form of Adam, and his likeness," we have already stated (ch. i.) their meaning. Those sons of Adam who were born before that time were not human in the true sense of the word, they had not "the form of man."
So, here we are told that it was possible that human but "without the form of man"--by which Maimonides meant had no soul--could have come from Adam. By his recognition , Seth was the first son after Cain and Abel with a soul.
Maimonides was not a heretic. He is widely accepted, although this part of his writing is not highlighted in much Jewish teaching today. His point is clear: what made a man a man was the soul. It was not the intelligence.
So, we see that for many, many years, Jewish reading of the scripture could accept soulless humans. However, more than this, some Jewish reading of the scripture also considers the earth very, very old.
The modern Orthodox Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, suggests that the Bible, and certain Rabbis before him, considered the universe much, much older. Once you can accept an old earth, then evolution, which needs very long gaps, becomes more possible. Shimshon Refael Hirsch an orthodox Jewish Rabbi leader in Germany, said that evolution would not contradict the Bible in the 1800's, just as Darwinism was taking off.
While the Jews obviously miss the Gospel message in the scriptures, I believe that they have a good grasp of many of the fine points that we Christians may miss. Just because somebody misses one point, does not mean that they have missed it all. While the vast majority of Orthodox Jewish thought rejects evolution and an old earth, I think it is important to realize that even before any real evidence for evolution existed, there were some that said that the Bible could be reconciled on either a time period or alternative being path with evolutionary evidence.
I am not suggesting that we should base our Christianity on Jewish tradition, but we can look at if this viewpoint could be supported by scripture sola.
The most powerful argument for a soulless humanoid is simply asking "Who Did Cain Fear?"
The summary of the Bible story of "Cain and Abel" is that God banished Cain for murder of his brother. This happened, as can be seen in this woodcut, because Cain offered a sacrifice with the right intentions. Cain, a farmer, offered the sacrifice in the wrong way.
Let's pick up the verses from here:
13 Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me."
15 But the LORD said to him, "Not so [e] ; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the LORD's presence and lived in the land of Nod, [f] east of Eden.
The question we all ask in Sunday school, and gloss over is presented here: Who did Cain marry? Who did Cain fear? How did the world get so populated in such a short time?
The answer in Sunday school is that "Cain married his sister, and the other people on the earth was his brothers and sisters." Just ignore that we are never told that Eve bore one girl by the time Cain was around. A bit disturbing?
This explanation makes zero sense. None. Marry his sister? Ewwww.
However, imagine that humanoid life did evolve, only without a soul. These creatures made small groups. They had what we might call "pretty good artificial intelligence." They were missing one thing. They did not have the spark of life in themselves.
If these beings did exist, then having Cain find a wife was trivial. We have a perfect answer for his fear of the great beyond. The Bible falls into sense, and with the anthropological evidence.
It is not only this section that is made easier. Genesis also make other comments that fall into line once you accept this thought. For instance, Genesis 6.
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.
Again, in Sunday school we normally hear that perhaps it was angels breeding with man. Zero sense.
Again, we are told that after Seth, "men began to call upon the name of the Lord." Clearly, as the spiritual nature of the descendants of Adam and Eve mixed with the population, the soul knew that it could call to the Lord.
In reality, there were two types of humans. Genetically compatible. Those with souls and those without. Now, you might say, "well this is just offensive, how can you believe that there were beings that look like man, and even spoke, and wouldn't have a soul?" To this, I would answer Balaam's Ass.
There may be two instances in the Bible where non-humans speak (and in reality, I believe it was only one instance). Balaam had a donkey that spoke to him, and saved him from destruction. Now, never had I heard that Balaam's ass needed a soul to do this. Neither do we hear that Balaam's ass spoke beyond one short time period, when it saved the life of Balaam.
If you read the story of Balaam in Number 22, you will see that intelligence was given to Balaam's animal for a short time period. Now, I guess that we could all get to heaven and find a special place for the donkey, but I bet you that there isn't. If Balaam's Donkey could get intelligence without a soul, I think we can state other beings can also.
The characteristics of these new humans? A richness in all that they did. The cultural anthropologists call this behavioral modernity (or sometimes the Great Leap Forward or Upper Paleolithic Revolution). Somewhere between 10,000 to 50,000 years ago, man became incredibly creative, and he began to plant seeds for the first time.
To go back to the aforementioned story of Cain and Abel. As we know from the Bible, Cain was a farmer. Abel had a flock. Agriculture only developed 10,000 years BC. This is all part of the Upper Paleolithic Revolution.
In light of the scriptures and the evidence that we have, this idea that a humanoid creature existed before Adam is the only answer.
However, it also poses problems. Could there be men today without souls if you were to accept my reading of the scripture? The problem is that the Bible is very silent on how the spark of eternal life is distributed. While we know that death of the spirit came from Adam, and the resurrection of the Spirit comes from Christ, we are not told explicitly to whom and how the spirit is given to all men. However, it would appear to me that the soul tracks the parents. If either parent has a soul, then the child will also have a soul. Since all people descended from Noah, then all people must have a soul. In a stealing from genetics terminology, the flood served as a genetic bottleneck to collapse non-soul beings into one genome (or soulnome).
Now, the conclusion to our line of thought today. The idea may be strange and unsettling. However, to counterbalance this strange thought, it is the easiest way to hold to the inerrancy of scripture and the evidence. It is clear from an extremely rich fossil record that Homo Erectus has been around for at least a couple of million years. There is little doubt that Homo Erectus look almost exactly like modern man that lived in small hunter-gatherer tribes and did tool making and probably had speech.
At first our minds would state, "wait a minute, if they looked like us and have intelligence, why wouldn't they have a soul?" Because intelligence and looks does not mean that they are made in the image of God. To go back to the previous post, a correct reading of the scriptures says that life is about having spirit. It is the spirit that is eternal, not the body, not the memories, and not intelligence.
It is because of this we treasure the deformed child. It is because of this we take care of those on life support. It is because of this we hate abortion.
In contrast, ethicists such as Joseph Fletcher, in his book humanhood, have argued that you are not human unless you have an IQ of 40 and are self conscious. If this is your viewpoint, than euthanasia is just a short step away.
Being made in the image of God doesn't mean that we have smarts, or language, or religion. Being made in the image of God means that we are made of spirit.