As summer rolls on, I’m starting to prepare lessons for the coming academic year. Here are a few fun and interesting things most people either didn’t know or simply forgot about the Bible.
- Adam and Eve didn’t eat apples. Well, probably not, anyway. The reason tradition (lowercase ‘t’) tends to give us apples is that, in Latin, apple and evil can both look like the same word, malum. Check out the actual biblical account of Genesis 3. I doubt they ate the forbidden fruit and then, realizing they were naked, ran all over the garden looking for an apple tree just to accommodate a language that wouldn’t exist for at least many centuries. What’s more likely? The forbidden fruit was probably fig and our first parents covered themselves in fig leaves. Fig leaves are not only fashionable, they’re penitential – fig leaves contain latex, which has a tendency to make some people itch.
Adam and Eve had a third son. If you didn’t know this, congratulations! You’re a typical Catholic. My recommendation: read the Bible more often, and don’t just skip the parts you think are boring. Plenty of people don’t know the Book of Genesis very well because they’ve written off the whole Torah (that’s the first 5 books). Don’t be like them. The Book of Genesis is a great read that really sets the stage for everything after it. Anyway, Adam and Eve had a third son and named him Seth. Many scholars believe Seth’s descendants are the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2, who married the “daughters of men” (Cain’s descendants), thus corrupting the whole human race and precipitating the Flood (yes, pun intended).
- Melchizedek may have been WAY older than he seemed. After the Flood, there was a rather embarrassing and shameful incident involving a little too much wine and a little too much naked. Noah’s son, Ham, gloated about seeing his father’s nakedness (which may have been a euphemism for a type of incest with Noah’s wife), while Shem and Japheth, Noah’s other sons, carefully covered up their father. Ham was given a curse while Shem was given a blessing. According to the Jewish tradition written down in Scripture commentaries called targumim, Shem went off toward the land that would become Canaan and built a city. That city came to be called Salem (Hebrew for peace), from which Melchizedek came to bless Abraham (Genesis 14:17-24). If this tradition is correct, Melchizedek is Shem, and several centuries old. You can find an interesting reflection on this here. What’s the implication? Adam was a priest, the high priest of all creation, and he must have passed on his priesthood. We can track that priesthood, passed through the righteous men of each generation, sometimes being lost to history and obscurity but then rising up again, all the way from Adam to Melchizedek to David to Jesus. It’s this priesthood that Jesus is a member of, the final member. It’s also this priesthood all our priests are ordained into. Yes, Father, your ordination goes back to Adam, but you already knew that, didn’t you?
- The Hebrews may have been a group known to Egyptian history as the Hyksos. Josephus, the 1st century Jewish historian, recounts the words (#14 on the link) of an Egyptian historian, Manetho, in describing what he believes was an Egyptian account of the incursion of the Hebrews into Egypt. Here are a few highlights: “Men of ignoble birth out [came] of the eastern parts, and had boldness enough to make an expedition into our country,” who “demolished the temples of the gods.” The men built a palace and stronghold at Avaris (Goshen, see Genesis 46:34) and were called Hyksos, which could mean “Shepherd-Kings” or also “Captive Shepherds” (the biblical tradition of double meaning). After several hundred years of ruling, they were driven out and returned home where “they built a city in that country which is now called Judea, and that large enough to contain this great number of men, and called it Jerusalem.” Disregarding what could easily be spin from the Egyptian account, that sounds an awful lot like the Hebrews, doesn’t it? Moreover, it would explain how the Hebrews came to be enslaved when “a new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, rose to power in Egypt” (Exodus 1:8). A new king could certainly interpret the once favorable relationship with the Hebrews in a new, negative light.
- Jesus died and rose for you because He loves you. I dare say this is the most widely forgotten fact in the Bible. You and I forget on a daily basis that Jesus paid the ultimate price out of His merciful love. Our forgetfulness of God and remembrance of ourselves, pride, is the reason we sin. We need to remember what Jesus did for us.
There are lots more where these came from! What are some of your favorite forgotten things about the Bible?