Genesis 6-7 and Early Church Writings [Clement of Rome] 36-40

Genesis 6 – “Then the people began to multiply on the earth, and daughters were born to them. The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives” (6:1-2).  This story of the “sons of god” are mythological deities mating with the daughters of man and presumably bringing forth the Nephilim, from whom the heroes of men arose. The Greek myths we are familiar with are full of these stories of gods and goddesses seeking out mortal partners and bringing forth heroic people.


Despite whatever luster these heroes might have had, the Lord becomes more and more pained at the extent of evil on the earth.  Man’s heart seemed to “fashion nothing but wickedness all day long” (6:5). Finally God regrets having made him at all. So he decides to destroy every living thing (6:7). 


“God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence” (NLT 6:12). There is only one good man - Noah whose name means “may this one comfort our sorrow.” God tells Noah to build an ark of gopherwood (NAB--NRSV says cypress) according to the dimensions he gives. The dimension are given in cubits; a cubit is equal to the length of a man’s forearm.  In feet the dimensions are 50’ wide by 300’ long and 30’ high according to some translations. The NLT translation was it should be 450’ long, 75’ wide and 45’ high. 


God says, “I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die. But I will confirm my covenant with you. So enter the boat—you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring a pair of every kind of animal—a male and a female—into the boat with you to keep them alive during the flood” (6:17-19).


So Noah and his family build the ark and bring onto it, two (later for priestly reasons, seven) of the clean animals (two of all others).  Noah, unlike Adam but like Abraham, carries out “all the commands that God gave him” (6:22).


Really Important Themes:

Simultaneously Punishing/Saving God: God will later give similarly specific instructions when he tells the Jews how to build the Ark of the Covenant and later the temple. In a sense this is already the second time God has intervened to “save” man from the consequences of his own evil. The first is when he helps to equip man (by providing clothes) for life in the fall and alienation from God; now again God works not only to punish but to save the human race.


Throughout scripture, we see this same paradox – God punishing man and simultaneously offering the hand of salvation. 


Collective vs. individual responsibility: What is also interesting is that not only does God want to destroy mankind for the evil they do but all living things – innocent birds and animals.  There is a sense in which the one given dominion – man in this case (later the king or the priests) – stands for everyone over whom they wield authority. So here, when man is evil, all the innocent creation must endure the punishment of those in position of responsibility; later when there is a monarchy, or later a priestly leadership class, the innocent, poor and dependent people they are responsible for also bear the chastisement brought on by the “shepherds” who fail. 


There is a tension in the story between this kind of “collective” vision and an equally strong vision of individual responsibility and existence before God.  Later we will be told in no uncertain terms that children will not be held responsible for the sins of their fathers, that each person will be judged on his or her own “merits” whether those merits be earned or won through faith in Christ.  But the “collective” dimension has continuing reality as well. Christ’s own incarnation and death speak of it for he comes to share our human nature, to bear our burdens and die for our shortcomings in a way only God can do.


Genesis 7 – “When everything was ready, the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the boat with all your family, for among all the people of the earth, I can see that you alone are righteous. Take with you seven pairs—male and female—of each animal I have approved for eating and for sacrifice, and take one pair of each of the others. Also take seven pairs of every kind of bird. There must be a male and a female in each pair to ensure that all life will survive on the earth after the flood (7:1-3). You can see here the addition of numbers to the story because it is a somewhat different version of the story inserted by the priests when the story was redacted.


The flood comes when Noah is 600 years old. For forty days and forty nights, the rains came down and covered the face of the earth. The magical number 40—forty days and nights of rain; forty years in the desert; forty night and days in the desert—the number of the salvation journey.


“As the waters rose higher and higher above the ground, the boat floated safely on the surface. Finally, the water covered even the highest mountains on the earth, rising more than twenty-two feet above the highest peaks” (7:18-19). The waters cover the earth for 150 days.


First Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (96AD)

Section 36 – It is through Christ, our High Priest, that we can see “as in a glass, the peerless perfection of the face of God. Through Him the eyes of our hearts are opened, and our dim and clouded understanding unfolds like a flower to the light; for through Him the Lord permits us to taste the wisdom of eternity” (37).


Section 37 – Clement turns to the imagery of warfare – Lamb’s warfare I presume. We must consider ourselves to be under His command in a large force with many different levels of authority. “Every organism is composed of various different elements; and this ensures it own good. Take the body as an instance; the head is nothing without the feet, nor are the feet anything without the head. Even the smallest of our physical members are necessary and valuable to the whole body; yet all of them work together and observe a common subordination, so that the body itself is maintained intact” (38).


Section 38 – “In Christ Jesus, then, let this corporate body of our be likewise maintained intact, with each of us giving way to his neighbor in proportion to our spiritual gifts” (38).


“[J]ust consider, my brothers, the original material from which we took our being. What were we, pray, and who were we, at the moment of our first coming into the world? Our Maker and Creator brought us out of darkness into His universe as it were out of a tomb; even before our birth He was ready with His favors for us. To Him we own everything, and therefore on every count we are under the obligation to return thanks to Him. Glory be to Him for ever and ever, amen” (38)


Section 39 – Men who have no understanding of these things may mock us, but merely mortal men can effect nothing. Those who are fools will never amount to anything. Long quotes from Scripture on the uselessness of those who are not the Lord’s.


Section 40 – “All these things are plain to us who have scanned the depths of sacred lore” (39). God created an order through which men should approach him. “[I]t was His command that the offering of gifts and the conduct of public services should not be haphazard or irregular, but should take place at fixed times and hours. Moreover, in the exercise of His supreme will He has Himself declared in what place and by what persons He desires this to be done, if it is all to be devoutly performed in accordance with His wishes and acceptably to His will” (39).


The priesthood has its place and the ministries of the Levites, and lay people “are bound by regulations affecting the laity” (39). Here certainly we finally come to the specifics of the concerns, which has caused Clement to write this letter. The problem is that his reference to it is so lacking in detail, it is really not possible to understand much about it. Clearly it has to do with “disorder” over ministries and particularly conflicts between lay persons and presbyters, which has led to the removal of some of these presbyters. There is an interesting article online, “Clement’s Answer to the Corinthian Conflict in AD 96,” by Davorin Peterlin in a journal called The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society(1996).


Section 35 – “How blessed, how marvelous are the gifts of God, my friends! Some of them, indeed, already lie within our comprehension – the life that knows no death, the shining splendor of righteousness, the truth that is frank and full, the faith that is perfect assurance, the holiness of chastity – but what of the things prepared for those who wait?” (37) We cannot really know these things.


So we must fix our minds on God and do His will: “Wickedness and wrongdoing of every kind must be utterly renounced; all greed, quarrelling, malice and fraud, scandal-mongering and back-biting, enmity towards God, glorification of self, presumption, conceit, and want of hospitality” (36). These all must be laid aside.

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