Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Lilith Myth

Several years ago, one of my students selected “Lilith” as the Old Testament person on which they wrote a report for my Old Testament History class.  Since I had not “exempted Lilith” from the selection choices of the students, I accepted the paper.  The paper was well written and received a good grade.  However, it also received several comments from me, specifically one that read “Lilith is not in the Old Testament”. 

More than once over the years I have had students ask me about Lilith.  Recently I was asked again and, instead of spending class time discussing this myth, I told the class I would send them a link to an article on this subject which I had previously posted on my blog.  I guess I had at one time intended to post such an article but never did!  So here are my thoughts on the subject.

1.  Who or What is Lilith?

a.  A Brief Answer to the Question.

Lilith (sometimes spelled “Lillith”) is a myth or legend.  Briefly, the story teaches Adam had a wife before Eve and her name was Lilith.  Evidently Lilith was a modern feminist for she had no interest in submitting to her husband.  Therefore she left him.  While there are several variations to the legend, Lilith is usually pictured as a wicked woman.   

b.  A More Detailed Answer.

For those who wish more information on Lilith, there are many books containing the story.  In fact, the story varies somewhat from one telling to another.  The following, however, is the more detailed answer I give to those who ask about Lilith.

(1)  According to the legend, God created man and woman on the 6th day of creation but that woman was not Eve. 

(2)  He created Adam from the dust of the ground and brought the animals before him to be named.  Time and time again, Adam saw the animals in pairs, male and female.  He became jealous of the love these pairs shared for one another  (some interpretations of this myth claim Adam even tried to copulate with the female of each species!).

(3)  Adam cried out to God that he needed a proper mate.  So God then formed Lilith also using the dust as He had done with Adam. 

(4)  Some teach that Adam and Lilith’s union produced an innumerable amount of demons that still trouble men today.  Others teach Lilith, after leaving Adam, had sex with Satan and that’s where the demons originated.

(5)  This 1st couple never had any peace together.  During sexual relations, Lilith did not want to lie beneath Adam because she viewed herself as his equal (both were formed from the dust).  As a result, Lilith left Adam.

(6)  Adam again complained to God, indicating a need for another helpmate.  God sent 3 angels to bring Lilith back.  They found her by the Red Sea (some say she was producing demons at the rate of 100 a day!).  The angels demanded she return to Adam or they would drown her.  Lilith refused and, after some debating with the angels, they finally left her.

(7)  Several variations of the story exist to explain the appearance of Eve.  The bottom line is that Adam needed a mate and God ultimately used one of Adam’s ribs to form Eve.

(8)  Some accounts of this myth have Lilith appearing in other Biblical accounts.  For example, some claim she is the demon who killed Job’s children.  Others claim she became the queen of Sheba with whom Solomon met.

2.  Is there any Scriptural Support for Lilith?

The short answer is “NO”.  Nevertheless, supporters of the myth use certain passages in their attempt to prove the existence of Lilith.

a.  Isaiah 34:14 – The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation of the original Hebrew reads:

“Wildcats shall meet with hyenas, goat-demons shall call to each other, there too Lilith shall repose, and find a place to rest.”

Other translations render “Lilith” as “screech owl” or “night bird” or some other similar phrase.

The original (Hebrew) word is pronounced “Lilith”.  Quoting from Gesenius’ Lexicon concerning this word:

“… a nocturnal spectre, which had, according to the rabbins, the form of a beautiful woman, and lay wait for children by night.    It is really lamentable that any one could connect the word of God with such utter absurdity; many understand this nocturnal creature spoken of to be simply the screech owl.”

b.  Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:18-25

These two passages teach the creation of man.  To those who hold to the Lilith myth, Genesis 1 reveals the creation of Adam and Lilith while the Genesis chapter 2 passage is the creation of Eve.

What they fail to mention is that the context of Genesis 2 includes the creation of Adam.  Is this Adam different from the one created in Genesis 1?  If not then why do two separate creation narratives teach the creation of 1 man but 2 women?

Anyone who has spent some time studying Genesis 1 and 2 understand that Genesis 1 is simply a summary of God’s creative work.  Since the Scripture is God’s revelation to man and the work of Christ is the redemption of man, a more detailed explanation of the creation of man (and woman) is in order.  So Genesis 2 retells the creation of mankind in a more specific way.  There are two accounts but the creation of one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve).  Lilith is nowhere to be found.

3.  How did Such a Legend Begin?

Around the time of Christ, the Jews attempted to explain what appeared to be contradictions or inconsistencies with the Scriptures (e.g., Old Testament).  They developed a complex system of interpretation called the midrash.  One of the supposed inconsistencies was the two separate accounts of creation found in Genesis 1 and 2. 

Similar questions were addressed by the Jewish mystical literature of the 13th century known as the Kabbalah.  In various publications dating from the 9th to the 13th century, the legend of Lilith appears to develop.  These works include “The Alphabet of Ben Sira” (probably compiled in the 11th century) and “The Book of Splendour”, a Kabbalah work of the 13th century.

Lilith appears in various pieces of literature, even in Goethe’s 19th century work “Faust”. Lilith is part of the conversation between Faust and Mephistopheles.  While I never watched the show, I understand the TV sitcom “Cheers” had a character named Lilith who appeared to be modeled after the woman of this myth.  Furthermore, modern feminists have adopted Lilith as the symbol for their philosophy.

4.  Conclusion

While it is an interesting myth, that is all Lilith is:  a myth.  She and the account of her life is nowhere to be found in the Scripture.  She did not exist; she was never real; the stories are untrue.

I would recommend those who are fascinated by Lilith pick up their Bibles and become more interested in the revelation GOD has given to us rather than spending time in legends men have provided.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Knowing Others in Heaven: Answering a Question from a Younger Brother

To Nolan, my younger brother in Christ:

On Sunday evening your mother asked me a question which she said you wanted to ask me.  I’m very grateful you have questions.  That’s a good indication that God’s Spirit is at work within you as you grow each day to be more like your Savior. 

I tried to answer the question which led to related questions and, afterward, decided I would write this post to put my answers in writing.  So here are my thoughts on what we will look like when we are resurrected and whether we will know one another.

God created us as beings having both a physical (our body) and a spiritual (our soul or spirit) component (Genesis 2:7).  He intends for us to live eternally in that form.  At death our soul goes to be with Christ while our body goes to the grave.  But there will be a future resurrection in which Christ will raise (and change) our physical body and reunite it with our soul and that will be our resurrected body (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  Such a resurrection is found in both the Old and New Testaments in numerous passages.  Probably the best single passage to review concerning the resurrection body is 1 Corinthians chapter 15.

Scripture indicates we will be given a resurrected body which is like Christ’s resurrected body.  Based on the Bible’s description of Jesus’ resurrected body as well as other passages in the New Testament which describes this future body, we may say that:

1.  Our resurrection body will have flesh.
2.  Our resurrection body will be able to eat food.
3.  Our resurrection body has speech capability.
4.  Our resurrection body is capable of normal, human activities.
5.  Our resurrection body may appear and disappear.
6.  Our resurrection body has a recognizable appearance.
7.  Our resurrection body will not actually be fully new.
8.  Our resurrection body will be incorruptible (no decay, no sickness, no death).
9.  Our resurrection body will be glorious.
10.  Our resurrection body will be powerful.
11. Our resurrection body will be a spiritual body (controlled totally by the spirit).
12.  Our resurrected body will be a heavenly body, one designed for its eternal environment.  In other words, we will be “right at home” in it.

The truth of our future resurrection often leads to the question:  “Will we recognize others in heaven?”  Scripture does not directly answer this question but I believe there is enough evidence to conclude that the correct answer is “Yes”.  Here is some of that evidence.

1.  At the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17), Jesus is transformed before the eyes of Peter, James, and John.  Suddenly Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain with him.  There is no indication in Scripture that anyone introduced Peter to these two men yet he recognized them.  There were no photographs or videos or trading cards containing Moses’ and Elijah’s image so someone must have told Peter who they were.  The Bible does not say how he knew who they were but, based on Peter’s confession in Matthew 16, I believe the Father revealed their identities to him.

If God the Father can suddenly reveal to Peter the identities of two men he has never met, could He not do the same for us in heaven?

2.  In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16), the rich man in Hades recognizes both Lazarus and Abraham.  While he may have known Lazarus in life, he had never met Abraham.  Again, someone must have revealed Abraham’s identity to him.

3.  When Jesus was raised from the dead and given a resurrection body (remember, our resurrection body will be like His), Jesus recognized others.  Of course, Jesus was God in the flesh so He possessed omniscience and knew all things.  Nevertheless, I think the fact He did recognize others after His death and resurrection, is evidence that we will too.

4.  In the institution of the Lord’s Supper Jesus said “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29).  Jesus indicates there will be a day in glory when He sits down with His followers and they drink together (which also indicates our resurrection body will be able to drink!).  Drinking together is a form of fellowship and to fellowship with one another you need some knowledge of who they are.

Again, the Bible is very silent on this subject.  A related matter on which Scripture says little is the topic concerning what will we look like in heaven?  In other words, will my resurrected body be my body at age 2 or age 10 or age 30 or age 65?  Will those who know me see me at an age in which they remembered me?  In other words will my parents see me as a young boy while me church friends see me as an adult? 

I can’t find much in the Scripture on this specific matter.  But I have drawn some conclusions which I want to share with you.  I challenge you to do your own study of God’s Word and see what you think.

1.  Jesus, whose resurrection body is our model, was seen as an adult of the same age He had at his death.  Everyone who saw the resurrected Lord saw Him as an adult.  Remember, His resurrection body even contained the marks of His crucifixion.

2.  Moses and Elijah at the Mount of Transfiguration also appeared as adults.

3.  I cannot recall any Scripture which describes resurrected saints as looking like children.

4.  Nothing in Scripture leads me to believe that our appearance, in terms of age, varies between individuals.  Our resurrection body is a physical body, not a body which morphs.

So I believe we will appear as adults to everyone.  But I can also tell you that our resurrected body will NOT age.  We will NOT grow older in appearance.  Such aging is a mark of sin.  Our present body breaks down over time.  Our resurrected bodies, however, will have no sin and, therefore, will not age in appearance.  It will never get sick and it will never die.

After I explain to folks why I believe we will appear as adults in our resurrected bodies, usually the next question asked is “How old of an adult?  20, 30, 40, 50?”  Well, once again, Scripture does not reveal this to us.

But I do have a sense of what we might find when we finally receive our resurrection bodies.  When God created this universe and made man in His image, He created man as an adult in the Garden of Eden.  Furthermore, Adam was created without sin or a sin nature.  His body, therefore, would not age in terms of appearance.  The aging process began when he sinned and his physical body began to die.  I think our resurrected bodies will be like that of Adam at creation.  No more sin, no more aging, no more death.  We will appear to one another as adults “in the prime of life”.  And we will know one another.   

I hope this helps you better understand the Scripture, Nolan.  I suspect it will raise even more questions for you.  Don’t be afraid to ask other Christians (for example, your parents or me) for answers.  Asking questions is a great way to grow in Jesus.

Pastor Bruce