Friday, December 14, 2007

How Noah is a New Adam

Mark Giszczak has a great post up on the word the word kaphar, כִּפֶּר, which, according to the BDB (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon), means: "to cover over", "to make propitiation," or to "pacify."

One can easily see how "to cover over" can also be applied to cultic propitiation contexts--sacrifice "covers over" sin.

Mark goes on to point out that the word is found in another unexpected context.
I found it very interesting that the same word is used in Gen 6:14 when the Lord commands Noah to cover the ark with pitch. Strangely enough, the same root is used for the word which means "pitch." Unfortunately, Gen 6:14 is the only occurrence of the word. But the image of God covering over sins with pitch is a powerful one, not that Gen or Ezek actually says that. The Ezek passage is referring to a future time when God will kaphar Judah's sins. I suppose it also has theological implications, but I don't want to take this too far. The point is that we can compare Ezek 16:63's use of kaphar with Gen 6:14 and come up with the image of God covering our sins with pitch. Cool.
In fact, Genesis seems to present Noah as a kind of new Adam, with numerous motifs reminiscent of the creation account. As in Genesis 1, in the story of the ark of Noah we see how a new creation emerges out of waters (Genesis 1:2; 7:11). The number “seven” also figures prominently. The flood begins after seven days, evoking the seven days of creation (Gen. 2:2; 7:10). As the Lord rested on the seventh day, the ark comes to a rest in the seventh month (Gen. 2:2-3; 8:4). Noah sends out birds every seven days (8:10-12). Noah was commanded to take seven pairs of clean animals (animals acceptable for sacrifice) into the ark (Gen. 7:2). We might also mention that “Noah” means rest--evoking the Lord's resting on the seventh day of the creation account.

Like Adam, Noah is told to be “fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 2:28; 9:1) and given “dominion” over the creatures of the earth (Gen. 2:28; 9:2). We might also note that the ark is created in three sections (cf. Gen 6:13) corresponding to the three realms of the cosmos created in Genesis 1. The tripartite structure is likely meant to indicate that the ark, like the cosmos, should be seen as a kind of temple [which had three sections: (1) Outer Court, (2) Holy Place, (3) Holy of Holies].[1]

In addition, we might also mention that the downfall of Noah is also reminiscent of Adam’s. Noah ends up in a vineyard, as Adam was in the garden. As Adam ate the forbidden fruit, Noah consumes too much of the fruit of the vine and becomes drunk. He is then found "naked". This results in his issuing prophetic statements about the consequences about what has just happened.

[1] For a fuller treatment see, S. W. Holloway, “What Ship Goes There: The Flood Narratives in the Gilgamesh Epic and Genesis Considered in Light of Ancient Near Eastern Temple Ideology,” in ZAW 103 (1991): 328-354; Meredith Kline, Kingdom Prologue (South Hamilton: Gordon Cornwell Theological Seminary, 1989), 156-59; C. T. R. Haywood, ‘Sacrifice and World Order: Some Observations on Ben Sira’s Attitude to the Temple Service,” in Sacrifice and Redemption (S. W. Sykes, ed.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 22-34.


Anonymous said...

Margaret Barker and Crispin Fletcher-Louis, among others, have much to say about Noah as High Priest. See also Barker's article "Atonement: the Rite of Healing" for some thoughts on the meaning of kpr and how it relates to the "cosmic covenant" explored by her and Fr. Robert Murray, especially how she links atonement to the idea of repairing the tears in the fabric of the cosmos that allow chaos and wrath to flood in.

Michael Barber said...

Thanks anonymous! (Who the heck are you?!--you've got some mighty good bibliographic references there!)

I just finished Fletcher-Louis' All the Glory of Adam: Liturgical Anthropology in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Leiden: Brill, 2001). The section in there on Noah was fascinating.

I'll check into that Barker article as well!

Stuart said...

Sorry for the anonymous thing, so here I am with my real name! The semantic field one should explore with reference to the pitch is not so much "cover over" as "mending the gaps".

I loved CFL's ATGOA, but found it very mind-boggling at the same time! (I think Andrei Orlov is writing stuff on priestly Noah themes as well these days). Barker builds on the work of Milgrom in his massive (but surprisingly readable!) Leviticus commentary to outline an Israelite world picture of the creation bound together by great covenantal bonds that bind everything up in one complex web of relationships and laws, in which the cosmic and moral orders are inextricably intertwined.

Sin caused the fraying of this great cosmic fabric, and the greater the sin, the greater the fraying, and the leakier the ship of the world became as it floated upon the cosmic waters. With the fraying of this cosmic fabric and the violation of the covenant, came the ever greater danger of the breaking in of "wrath" through the gaps, flooding through to restore the world to a hellish primeval chaos without form or void.

Since the tabernacle/temple complex represented a microcosm of the creation, ritual actions performed there served to effect change at the level of the microcosm, specifically, repair of the damage that threatened to bring everything crashing down. The rituals brought about, in microcosm and macrocosm, atonement in its literal sense of at-one-ment, the binding up and reunification of that which was shattered, and the greatest of these ritual acts was the great blood rite of Yom Kippur, which brought about the renewal of the whole cosmos, its healing, its reunification, its deliverance, its exodus, from bondage to the decay that threatened ultimately to crumble it to utter ruin.

And performed by the High Priest bearing the Name, it was nothing less than the action of the Holy One of Israel Himself, an action not of cruel coercion, but of outpouring love. Each part of the temple received the blood outpoured upon it, and hence each part of creation received the saving action of its High Priestly LORD, making all things new, bound up from its brokenness to be headed up anew in Him.

Noah thus comes first as a prophet of judgement to his generation, having received a vision which God has given to His servant "to show what must soon take place", to proclaim the doom that is coming.

But he also comes as a preacher of repentance, proclaiming that there is a means of escape: though the disaster that is looming is unavoidable, nonetheless God inn His mercy has offered a way out to those who have eyes to see it and ears to hear it, that God will make a way through the waters for a remnant of the redeemed to pass through to a new world after the judgement has passed over.

Furthermore, he comes not merely as the messenger of such glad tidings, but as the one who is the means for realising them, for as he proclaims and prophesies, enduring the ridicule and rejection of his people, he brings into being the means by which the escape from the judgement may be made, the Noachic Church of wood and pitch, the temple-microcosm of a new world in embryo that will pass through the birth pangs of the tomb-womb of the flood waters to emerge fully born on the other side.

But only a few, only his family, heed his message, and enter into this ark of salvation, and only they are safe, sealed in by the pitch, when the cosmic fabric finally frays beyond recall, and the "wrath" comes crashing through the torn firmament of the world, and the time comes for the destroyers of the world to go down into the pit.

Yet after wrath has spent itself, upon this awful sight of wrack and ruin, that has become the tomb of evil, descends love unmeasurable, the light and the wind, the sevenfold-in-one arc of the Glory, to kiss it in perfect mercy, that it might be healed, and be no longer the tomb of the old, but now to bring forth in ecstasy, "like a strong man in desire", as the womb of the new, and the ark comes forth from the waters, the microcosm of a new world sitting atop the holy mountain, and Noah comes forth from the house of the ark shining like the bow in the clouds after rain, radiant with sevenfold splendour, to offer upon the holy mountain the oblation that founds a world anew.

Whereas Adam's work is to till the garden, and to keep it from the onslaughts of evil without, and to warn Eve of what is to come when evil does break through to stalk the garden-temple, Noah's work is to build the ark, and to stock it, and to warn, and to gather in those that heed, and to go in, and to shut the door, as the old heaven and the old earth pass away, and the new heaven and the new earth of the ark-temple come forth into the light of a new day. But both works are liturgical acts, the liturgies of the two great High Priests of the Primeval History.

Anonymous said...

My name is Andrew. Stuart, I like your comment on the fraying of a garment, but I think you should also consider the idea of kpr or kaphar as meaning "to cover" as with a garment, the garment that God gave Adam and Eve, the fact that Hebrews 10:20 mentions the veil representing the flesh of Christ and that the veil and the garment were the same so the garment represents Christ's flesh covering Christians, but not at baptism but in the ancient and modern Christian temple endowment. See Temples of the Ancient World, pp. 506-507.