Letter to the Editor
Is Fisher's Search Misdirected?
David F. Siemens, Jr., Ph.D.
2703 E. Kenwood St.
Mesa, AZ 85213-2384
From: PSCF 46 (March 1994): 69 Response: Fisher
Dick Fisher's inventive "In Search of the Historical Adam: Part I" (December 1993) presents solutions to perceived difficulties in biblical interpretation. Unfortunately, his constructions create grave new problems. Some minor vagaries spring from the single-minded pursuit of an obsession, like the production of nomadic Nodites (245), when a simpler reading refers nod to Cain's wanderings.
More serious complications require overlooking major consequences following from the "solution." For example, if Adam lived about 5000 B.C., then Noah must be dated approximately a millennium and a half later. If he lived in Mesopotamia, Ur, Kish, Erech and other communities were already in existence.
It would take at least ten-cubits of water to float a loaded vessel the size of the Ark. To this must be added the rise to reach the level where the Ark was built, plus enough additional depth to avoid grounding it on every hillock along the bank. That this is possible seems evidenced by the "flood deposits" at Ur and Kish, although a great inundation should have left a single more widespread layer of sediment. Further, the deposits may be, not the result of floods, but of shifts in the river channel. Neither of the two at Kish appear to be contemporary with the one at Ur. Even discounting this and positing a new channel to float the Ark, such a massive flow of water would carry the Ark downstream, southward into the Persian Gulf, not northward toward the mountains of Ararat. In addition, building and stocking a huge vessel seems ridiculous when, on Fisher's interpretation, a short trek would have put everyone safely out of reach of any reasonable flood crest. The Zagros Mountains (ancient Elam, from the Accadian word for highlands), along with their northern extension, are within a hundred miles of the ancient Tigris. There are also hills nearly as close to the Euphrates.
The original settlers of the Americas came long before 3500 B.C., for the Bering land bridge closed more than 8,000 years ago. How, then, can aboriginal Americans have flood legends? Additionally, the geographic isolation of Australians, like Americans, long precedes Fisher's date for Adam. They can, by descent from the same remote ancestor as Adam, be of one blood. But what are the theological consequences of having no part in the Adamic or Noahic covenants? How were they made sinners by one man's disobedience (Romans 5:19, see also vv. 12, 15-18)? This seems to go beyond legislation to condemnation without representation.
If, as Fisher claims, Adam merely had a special mission given to him (p. 245), using bara, create, to describe this (Genesis 5:1) seems grossly excessive. Further, if Adam was only one of a large number of Homo sapiens sapiens alive at the time, could not God have communicated an adequate sense of this mission to a contemporary woman? Did he have to miraculously produce Eve to meet the need? Were all human females too stupid to catch on when God did the explaining? Also, why did God parade the animals past Adam in search of "an help meet for him" (2:18-20)? Would he imply that Equus asinus was a better candidate than any of the many available female H. s. sapiens?
On the other hand, if Adam were a distinct creation in the midst of a population which merely looked like him, we have a reason for Eve not being a woman from the surrounding peoples. But then Adam cannot be their representative, for he does not have the proper kinship. In this case, it is not merely the distant Americans and Australians who do not fall under Adam's hegemony. Today we cannot tell which of us is of pure Adamic descent, of mixed Adamic descent, and of non-Adamic descent. If the last class are to be saved, we need to totally rethink soteriology. Indeed, the hybrid class seems to produce problems enough.
In addition, unless Adam was severely retarded, how could he be so ignorant about clothing that God had to provide a covering? And why, coming from a long-established culture, would Adam have to name all the beasts and birds? None of this rings true.
Finally, the same issue of Perspectives contains Edwin Yamauchi's "Metal Sources and Metallurgy in the Biblical World," which notes that Mesopotamia has no gold sources (p. 257). Yet Fisher, citing the Biblical reference, writes that one of the rivers of Eden was located where gold was abundant (pp. 248f). This underscores the problem of uncritically locating the Garden of Eden in Mesopotamia, the traditional spot, while revising so many other notions.
I appreciate Fisher's attempt to look at matters in a different way. Such a novel approach is necessary to solve the problems of which we become aware. It was Nobel laureate Albert von Szent-Gyorgyi, I think, who said that we have to look beside problems to solve them. A new look is certainly somewhat askew in order to reformulate matters so that unanticipated solutions emerge. But the revised view must be comprehensive, broad enough to encompass all the evidence. Tunnel vision like Fisher's cannot produce the desired results.