Genesis 2–3 in Early Christian Tradition and 4QInstruction

In: Dead Sea Discoveries
Author: Benjamin Wold1
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  • 1 Trinity College, Dublin

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Narratives about the Garden of Eden from Genesis 2–3 were popular among both early Jewish and Christian interpreters. More than other compositions found at Qumran, 4QInstruction gives sustained attention to these chapters of Genesis when offering instruction. Observations about how creation traditions are used in 4QInstruction provides the opportunity to assess the intense debates about the use of these chapters among both the so-called “proto-orthodox” and “gnostic” Christians of, especially, the second-century ce. These competing interpretations of Genesis 2–3 in early Christianities display continuities with 4QInstruction and these interpretive strands offer perspective on later readers, most notably Augustine of Hippo.

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    Elaine H. Pagels, “Exegesis and Exposition of the Genesis Creation Accounts in Selected Texts from Nag Hammadi,” in Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism, and Early Christianity, ed. Charles W. Hedrick and Robert Hodgson, Jr. (Peabody, ma; Hendrickson, 1986), 257–86 (260).

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  • 6

    Gerard P. Luttikhuizen, “The Creation of Man and Woman in the Secret Book of John,” in The Creation of Man and Woman, 140–55; Pagels, “Exegesis and Exposition,” 258.

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  • 8

    Michael E. Stone, Ancient Judaism: New Visions and Views (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), 31–58.

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    Paula Fredriksen, Sin: The Early History of an Idea (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 141; Pagels, Adam, Eve, 98, summarizes that in Augustine’s view Adam, “brought upon humanity not only universal death, but also universal, and inevitable, sin.” Clement (Str 3.17) rejects the notion of “original sin”: “Let them tell us, where the newly born child committed fornication, or how a thing that has performed no action at all has fallen under the curse of Adam?”.

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  • 17

    Cf. Pagels, Adam, Eve, 47. A number of scholars have assessed the popularity of Enochic literature in early Christian traditions and concluded that both this literature and angelic interpretations of Gen 6:1–4 were in no way marginal. Cf. Richard J. Bauckham, “The Fall of the Angels as the Source of Philosophy in Hermias and Clement of Alexandria,” vc 39 (1985): 313–30; James C. VanderKam, “1 Enoch, Enochic Motifs, and Enoch in Early Christian Literature,” in Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage in Early Christianity, ed. James C. Vanderkam and William Adler (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1996), 33–101; Walter H. Wagner, “Interpretations of Genesis 6.1–4 in Second-Century Christianity,” jrh 20 (1996): 137–55; Annette Yoshiko Reed, Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

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  • 18

    Yoshiko Reed, Fallen Angels, 156–57.

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    Yoshiko Reed, Fallen Angels, 162.

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    Pagels, Adam, Eve, 64.

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    Fredriksen, Sin, 92–167; cf. Jörg Frey, “Die paulinische Antithese von ‘Fleisch’ und ‘Geist’ und die palästinisch-jüdische Weisheitstradition,” znw 90 (1999): 45–77; Loren T. Stuckenbruck, “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament,” in Qumran and the Bible: Studying the Jewish and Christian Scriptures in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. Nóra Dávid and Armin Lange (Leuven: Peeters, 2010), 131–70 (167); Benjamin Wold, “‘Flesh’ and ‘Spirit’ in Qumran Sapiential Literature as the Background to the Use in Pauline Epistles,” znw 106 (2015): 262–79.

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  • 25

    Bernard S. Jackson, Essays on Halakhah in the New Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 167–225. Jackson notes this myth in Philo of Alexandria (esp. Opif. 76) and later rabbinic literature.

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  • 32

    Jean-Sébastien Rey, “Family Relationships in 4QInstruction and in Eph 5:21–6:4,” in Echoes from the Caves, 231–55; Benjamin Wold, “Family Ethics in 4QInstruction and the New Testament,” NovT 50 (2008): 286–300. Both Rey and I assume a verbatim reconstruction of Gen 2:24 in 4Q416 2 iii–iv.

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  • 35

    Luttikhuizen, “The Creation,” 258.

  • 36

    Anne M. McGuire, “Women, Gender, and Gnosis in Gnostic Texts and Traditions,” in Women and Christian Origins, ed. Ross S. Kraemer and Mary R. D’Angelo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 257–99 (261–62).

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  • 38

    Luttikhuizen, “The Creation,” 152.

  • 39

    Luttikhuizen, “The Creation,” 155.

  • 40

    Pagels, “Exegesis and Expositions,” 278.

  • 41

    Pagels, Adam, Eve, 94, 105–6.

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