My first post concerning this issue raised a lot of questions and spurred a lot of dialogue. Regardless of whether or not a consensus has been achieved amongst those who supported my opinions and those who did not, it did serve to create conversation, raise more questions, and better articulate and outline the salient issues that are involved in the act of interpretation. I believe this dialogue is important, especially in relation to texts that are shrouded in contexts which we will never be able to fully penetrate. Hopefully, this second post can move the conversation to other possibilities for thinking and reflection as well.

As I have continued to study this issue, I have come across some interesting information. For example, consider the following data set:

Name /Age When Son Born / Remaining Years / Total Years ———————————————————————
1. Adam / 130 / 800 / 930
2. Seth / 105 / 807 / 912
3. Enosh / 90 / 815 / 905
4. Kenan / 70 / 840 / 910
5. Mahalalel / 65 / 830 / 895
6. Jared / 162 / 800 / 962
7. Enoch / 65 / 300 / 365
8. Methuselah / 187 / 782 / 969
9. Lamech / 182 / 595 / 777
10. Noah / 500 / 450 / 950

In the "genealogy" of Genesis 5, each listing follows a formula in which the patriarch's name is given, his age at the birth of his son is listed, the remaining years of his life are noted, concluding with a final "sum" of the total years of his life.

If one looks closely at the numbers, rather than the random number set which appears at first glance, there is actually a very specific theme which unites each entry. For example, each number from each category for each name ends in either the number 0, 2, 5, 7 or 9. As many who have studied this document in relation to Mesopotamian literature have concluded, the totals that are listed for each category are a combination of the Mesopotamian sacred number "60" (as months [5 years] and years [e.g., 60 years] ) and "7." For example, Enoch's data can be computed as follows:
65 [60yrs + 60mos] / 300 [60 x 60mos] / 365 [60 x 6yrs + 60mos] (or 1 solar year)

Following this pattern, never once in the antedeluvian or postdeluvian data sets do the numbers 1, 3, 4, 6, or 8 ever appear. As an actual dispertion of ages across 30 data sets (not to even consider the postdiluvian data sets) would predict that an even dispersion of end-numbers would attain, the fact that the end-numbers in the Genesis 5 data sets are restricted to a certain range of values so strongly suggests an underlying structure that Sparks insists that the probability of such a data range occuring is 4.5 x 10-11, less than one chance in a billion.

So what does this all mean? Clearly, there is strong evidence to suggest that the numbers in the genealogy are artificially generated and do not represent actual numbers. However, in anticipation of the obvious question about this information to an understanding of the "inspiration" of Scripture, I do not think this should create problems for the student of the Scriptures. In my previous post, I advocated that the fact that the genealogy of Genesis 5 is probably based upon a Sumerian king list does not mitigate "inspiration." Rather, it merely requires that one adjust what is potentially a too materialist conception of inspiration.

Concerning this additional information, I do not think it is surprising that the writers would utilize mathematical formulae to create numeric (or, more properly, numerological) meanings. After all, as any cursory reading of the Scriptures quickly reveals, the writings are plentiful with numerological devices (7 days of creation, 40 days of the flood, 70 nations, 12 tribes, 3 days and 3 nights, etc.). What the modern interpreter of the Scriptures must avoid, however, is reading modern conceptions of history and the strict "realist" usage of numbers into the text. Consequently, if the original writers meant to use these numbers in a more "sacred," numerological sense, and were not necessarily attempting to record "real" history, then we, as modern interpreters, actually do violence to the texts by assuming that our utility of numbers and their meaning are categorically applicable to every instance of numbers in Scripture.