Anachronisms and Cognitive Dissonance

Some time ago a teacher, who is a Christian, at a Christian homeschooling group, said to the class wherein I was, “Genesis tells us that they had iron before the Flood.” Long pause. “That’s amazing to me. It just proves that human technology isn’t evolving the way modern scientists tell us.”

What’s she referring to? Genesis 4:22, Tubal-cain, who shared a father with Noah (see Gen 4:19 and 22 with 5:28-31) “was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron.”

Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.

Genesis 4:22, NIV

Archeological evidence indicates that in the ANE (Ancient Near East), the Iron Age did not begin until 1300 BCE – in other words, at least a thousand years after the events Genesis claims to record. So what’s the explanation?

The biblical author(s) had iron at the time they were writing, of course, and had had it for a long time. No one knew when iron had been invented. So the mythological account of Tubal-Cain was developed to explain it. It’s that simple.

A lot of Christians miss something. The idea of the story is that Tubal-Cain is the ancestor of all metalworkers. How do we know this? Just before the relevant verse, we’re told:

Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.

Gen. 4:20-21, NIV

The clear implication is that Tubal-cain, then, is the father of all metalworkers. But the problem with this is that in the Flood, everyone but Noah, his sons, and their wives was killed, and so no descendants of Jubal and Tubal-Cain would have remained. Because of this odd disconnect, most scholars view the Flood story as having developed independently of the “father of” stories. They were later merged.

Of course, none of this fits the narrative of strict biblical inspiration, which is why Christians can’t consider it. There’s a term for this; it’s called “cognitive dissonance.”

cognitive dissonance (n.): The psychological tension that occurs when one holds mutually exclusive beliefs or attitudes and that often motivates people to modify their thoughts or behaviors in order to reduce the tension.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

Christians hold to biblical inspiration, but also recognize the logical merit of these critical arguments and the force of the archeological evidence. Accordingly, they modify their thoughts, suppressing critical and archeological evidence in favor of biblical inspiration.

Why was my teacher “amazed”? Because she knows of the ample evidence in favor of the conclusion that the iron age could not have begun anywhere near this time, and yet suppresses that anyways. But this sort of intellectual surrender is mind-boggling to me. More frustratingly for me, I’m unable to speak up and say what I think is true, because I’d get punished by my Christian parents. I’m sure many of my readers have experienced this too – where they could not clarify the truth to their religious friends out of a fear of penalty.

Other anachronisms exist in Genesis. Here are a few examples.

  • Genesis 2:5-6 tells us that it hadn’t yet rained and a mist, or a stream, from the earth watered the ground. A few verses later, with no mention of rain in between, we’re told that a river flowed out of Eden and split into four rivers, one of which was the Euphrates. Yet the Euphrates, which flows from the Turkish highlands, could not follow the same course as a river fed from the ground. Even if it had rained by then, the tectonic and topographic upheaval associated with the fountains of the deep breaking up would have meant that any rivers before and after the flood could not have followed the same courses and so could not have the same name.
  • Genesis 3:24 tells us that God placed Cherubim to block the way to the Garden of Eden. Cherubim are in Babylonian and Assyrian mythology. It would appear that the authors of Genesis borrowed the concept from the Babylonians. Christians might like to say that the Babylonians were privy to this Genesis account – but somehow, none of their myths mention Adam, Eve, or Eden. The indication seems to be that the Genesis story was written after the Babylonian exile.
  • It has oft been pointed out that camels, mentioned as pack animals in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, and Jacob, were not domesticated by that time. This holds true, as demonstrated by the following study: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140203131518.htm.
  • In Genesis 7:2, God tells Noah to separate between clean and unclean animals. Yet God does not explain the distinction to Noah. Not until Genesis 9:3-6 are humans permitted to eat meat at all (whether clean or unclean), and the law outlining clean and unclean animals is not given until much later. Thus, the reference to clean and unclean animals in Genesis 7 would not be a concept relevant to the times it claims to describe. But by the time the authors were writing, the distinction would have been established.
  • In Genesis 36:31, we are told of “the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned” (NIV). But at this point in the narrative, Jacob and his children are still alive. However, there was no king of the Israelites until Abimelech – if that can even be counted, as there was no hereditary monarchy until Saul. Thus the text has to have been written centuries after the times it claims to describe.
  • Genesis 31:47 claims that people at the time used Aramaic names to name locations. Yet Aramaic was not developed until long after the events described.

Here’s the point. Genesis is full of anachronisms, as much of the Bible is full of errors. Why shut down your intellect to believe it against all evidence?

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