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Biblical anthropology

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Biblical anthropology is the study of society within a biblical framework based on pre-flood civilisation, the flood of Noah, and the post-flood dispersal of humanity.

Contents

Framework

The framework for biblical anthropology is the historical account of creation, the flood, and the dispersal connected with the Tower of Babel, recorded in the book of Genesis.

Pre-flood civilisation

From the biblical account we can learn or deduce the following points:

  • That mankind was created without fault or flaw. This is indicated not just from the nature of God, but from God's declaration that His creation was "very good".[1]
  • That the first man, Adam was not a primitive, half-human, barely capable of speech, but a being capable of talking with God and of naming a range of animals birds in a few hours.[2]
  • Although the Bible doesn't record anything explicit about the origins of writing, it gives a hint that Adam was capable of writing, in noting that the record regarding Adam was a written record.[3] See also Colophons in Genesis.
  • The Bible explicitly mentions the origin of animal farming[4], musical instruments,[5], and bronze and iron tools[6] only a handful of generations after Adam.
  • The biblical chronogenealogies allow us to calculate that the pre-flood civilisation lasted a period of about 1560 years.

Flood

The Great flood, which according to biblical chronology occurred about 2,350 years B.C., put an end to civilisation as it was at the time. With only one family surviving the flood, most of mankind's accumulated knowledge would have been lost, although memories of what was possible would have survived. Along with knowledge being lost, any physical evidence of mankind's achievements would also have been lost, with the flood being a major geological event

Dispersal

God instructed the ark passengers to multiply and fill the Earth.[7] However, mankind disobeyed God by not only failing to spread out, but by deliberately trying to stay together, for which they started to build a tower in Babel as a focal point of their society.[8] In order to frustrate their plans, God caused the population to speak a number of different languages, so they were no longer able to communicate with the rest of the group.[9]

Although this event is not explicitly dated, the Bible records that it was during the lifetime of one of Noah's grandsons, Peleg, who lived about 100 years after the flood, that "the earth was divided", which many scholars believe to be a reference to the dispersal.

Post-dispersal civilisation

After the dispersal from Babel, the biblical account concentrates on the origins and subsequent history of the Israelite people, and says little about the rest of humanity, other than when it interacted with the Israelites. However, various deductions can be made about what followed.

As people migrated away from Babel, their first priorities would have been food and shelter. Technology, such as smelting metals, requires stable, settled, civilisation with time to develop the processes, which would need reinventing after the knowledge was lost at the time of the flood. So for people on the move with other priorities, we would expect see a progression of technology similar to what is actually found by archaeologists. People would live in caves until they could find time to built more permanent homes. They would start with simple tools made from bones and stones before progressing to metal tools. And they would start off being hunter-gatherers before being able to develop farms.

When settlement does occur, it will occur first in the Middle East, and progressively later the further one is from the Middle East.

Archaeological observations agree with these expectations except for the secular timescale attached to them.

References

  1. Genesis 1:31
  2. Genesis 2:16-17,19
  3. Genesis 5:1
  4. Genesis 4:20
  5. Genesis 4:21
  6. Genesis 4:22
  7. Genesis 9:1
  8. Genesis 11:4
  9. Genesis 11:5-9
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