Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gentiles Have Uncovered Genitals according to Jubilees!

I have been rereading Jubilees today, mostly because I am finding it increasingly relevant to my chapter on the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, and I found the passage on the expulsion of Adam and Eve particularly interesting (and a bit funny):

And he made for them garments of skin and he dressed them and sent them from the garden of Eden. And on that day when Adam went out from the garden of Eden, he offered a sweet-smelling sacrifice--frankincense, galbanum, stacte, and spices--in the morning with the rising of the sun from the day he covered his shame. On that day the mouth of all the beasts and cattle and birds and whatever walked or moved was stopped from speaking because all of them used to speak with one another with one speech and one language. And he sent from the garden of Eden all of the flesh which was in the garden of Eden and all of the flesh was scattered, each according to its kind and each one according to its family, into the place which was created for them. But from all the beasts and all the cattle he granted to Adam alone that he might cover his shame. Therefore it is commanded in the heavenly tablets to all who will know the judgment of the Law that they should cover their shame and they should not be uncovered as the gentiles are uncovered. (Jub. 3:26-31; OTP 60; trans. Wintermute)

This passage of expulsion is full of interesting things. Firstly, the "sweet-smelling sacrifice" (cf. the biblical "pleasing odor") is the combination of spices found in Exod. 30:34 for a very special form of incense only to be used before the ark of the testimony in the most holy place within the tabernacle (cf. Abraham's mixture for Sukkoth at Beer-sheba in Jub. 17:24). Does this passage reinterpret this special blend as a recreation of Adam's offering? Does this special blend only used in the inner chamber constitute the desire and hope for humans to return to Eden? It is particularly interesting due to the equation between Eden and the Sanctuary, particularly found in temple symbolism.

This Eden seems far more exciting than the one in Genesis because there are talking animals! Presumably they spoke Hebrew. It is something straight out of Aesop or Chaucer to be deliberately anachronistic. This part, however, lets us know that burning question: what happened to all the animals in Eden. Their scattering by changing their language (or making it so they cannot communicate with humans) sounds a bit like the Tower of Babel story, but with animals in Eden.

Finally, my favorite part and the reason I am posting on this: Adam (and Eve presumably) should cover their shame and not be uncovered like the Gentiles are. Firstly, what Gentiles? They don't exist yet! But, more importantly, this second-century BCE document (that's about where I would date Jubilees), speaks of Gentiles as if they didn't wear clothes. I suggest two sources for such an accusation. Firstly, it sounds like the Greeks. In the wake of Alexander the Great, cities all around Asia Minor, the Levant, in Egypt, and outward to Babylon were being transformed and reorganized along the lines of a Greek polis. This new polis would include a Gymnasion (most of you are probably used to the Latinized spelling, Gymnasium) and the Ephebeion, as well as occasionally a hippodrome for horse racing and an amphitheater. The Gymnasion and the Ephebeion were most key, however, since they were the educational centers to mold the new citizenry from childhood onward. The Gymnasion was not just a place of exercise, although it was that, but it was a place of education as well. And, oh, it gets its name from one fact: the Greeks would exercise in the nude (gymnos). Moreover, Jerusalem was remade into a Greek polis in the second century BCE under the rule of Antiochus "Epiphanes" IV in collusion with the Jerusalemite upper classes (particularly the priests!)(see 1 and 2 Maccabees). The other source is traditional: Leviticus 18. This chapter begins by speaking of not walking in the ways of the Egyptians and Canaanites, the gentiles par excellence of their day (18:1-5), and the following verses, which presumably elaborate what this gentile behavior is, is all sexual (these are the laws against incest). And the language used is to uncover someone's shame! So uncovering shame (in Leviticus meaning sex) set as Gentile behavior matches Jubilees usage, but also makes sense in Jubilees Hellenistic context.

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