Saturday, February 4, 2023

Augustin Pyramus de Candolle

 Born February 4, 1778, Swiss botanist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle was the first to document the internal biological clock of plants. He discussed the idea of "Nature's war," which influenced Darwin's idea of natural selection. He also observed the phenomenon of what later was called convergent evolution--creatures without common ancestry develop similar traits within their shared ecological niches. The example I found online is sharks and dolphins. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Darwin's Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication

Darwin's long work, "The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication" was published on January 30, 1868. Published a little over eight years after "Origin of Species," the book provides Darwin's data about mechanisms of variation among domestic species and the role of environment in species development. He offered his "provisional hypothesis" on what he called "pangenesis," a kind of particle mechanism for how species features are passed among generations. Darwin didn't have the benefit of Mendel's researches on genetics, which only became widely known over thirty years later. So his provisional hypothesis wasn't as well received as his accumulation of data about variations. 

Space Shuttle Columbia

The Space Shuttle Columbia was the first of five shuttles to fly in space, with its first flight on April 12-14, 1981. The Columbia disintegrated on reentry twenty years ago today, killing all seven crew members.

Bible Families: Seth

I'm continuing my informal study of the Bible's numerous genealogies. Here is the second genealogy in Genesis: the family of Seth, leading to Noah and his sons.  This translation is KJV, in the public domain.  

Genesis 4:25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.

26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.

5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;

2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.

3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth:

4 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:

5 And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.

6 And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos:

7 And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters:

8 And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died.

9 And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan [Kenan]:

10 And Enos lived after he begat Cainan [Kenan] eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters:

11 And all the days of Enos were nine hundred and five years: and he died.

12 And Cainan [Kenan] lived seventy years and begat Mahalaleel:

13 And Cainan [Kenan] lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters:

14 And all the days of Cainan [Kenan] were nine hundred and ten years: and he died.

15 And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared:

16 And Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters:

17 And all the days of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five years: and he died.

18 And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch:

19 And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:

20 And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died.

21 And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah:

22 And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:

23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:

24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

25 And Methuselah lived a hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech.

26 And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:

27 And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.

28 And Lamech lived a hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son:

29 And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.

30 And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters:

31 And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died.

32 And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

1 Chronicles chapter 1 records the lineage this way. 

1 Adam, Sheth, Enosh,

2 Kenan, Mahalaleel, Jered,

3 Henoch, Methuselah, Lamech,

4 Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

And the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3 gives the lineage in reverse order. 

son of Shem, son of Noah, son of Lamech, son of Methuselah, son of Enoch, son of Jared, son of Mahalaleel, son of Cainan, son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God. 

This week, I studied the New Interpreter’s Bible commentary on Genesis. That author indicates that this genealogy is from the Priestly Source, with the addition of verse 29 which is the Yahwist Source. Thus, the genealogy of Genesis 4:25-5:32 is of the same source as Genesis 1:1-2:4a. The fact that Genesis 4 and 5 give similar names—Cain and Kenan, Irad and Jared, Mehujael and Mahalaleel, Methushael and Methuselah, Lamech and Lamech, Enoch and Enos—implies that the genealogies have a common ancient source but, as recorded in Genesis, are distinct families---cousins descended from the brothers Cain and Seth. 

Enoch has a notable place in this lineage. He walked with God, a euphemism for closeness to God (also used in 17:1 and 48:15). I've always found this a lovely image to take to heart. The expression God took him might mean that he died after an honored life, or that God brought him to Heaven similar to Elijah in 2 Kings 2. The passage may also explain why non-canonical, pseudopigraphical works of divine revelation were attributed to Enoch. (The short New Testament book of Jude quotes one of them.) He was uniquely close to God.  

Enoch’s son Methuselah gained biblical fame for having the longest life: 969 years. "He's old as Methuselah," my mom sometimes said about some really old person. The NIB commentary suggests that the long lives of people in this period can remind us of the long lifespans of kings in Mesopotamian epics, although those men supposedly lived for thousands of years. The point may be that these are persons of the ancient, unrecoverable past. 

Something I read in the past (I don’t know what or when) made the perhaps chiding point that Enoch is known for his close relationship with God, but his son Methuselah is known only for his long life. 

Years ago, a pastor friend calculated that Methuselah died in the year of the flood. It’s an intriguing question whether he died in the flood or not. 

Of course, the lineage reaches Noah and his sons. “Noah” is a play on the word niham, comfort or relief. Noah’s father Lamech (in contrast to the avenging Lamech of 4:23-24) expresses hope that his son will play a role in the healing of the earth. The reference to the curse of the ground refers us back to Genesis 3:17-19, also of the Yahwist’s source. 

The Torah is read in a yearly cycle in synagogue worship (the weekly portion or parshah), accompanied by a related reading from the Prophets (the haftarah). I’ve a wonderful book with those readings: W. Gunther Plaut, The Haftarah Commentary (Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1996). In the Ashkenazic tradition, Genesis 1:1-6:8 (Parshah Bereshit) is accompanied Isaiah 42:5-43:11: the creation of Israel is linked to creation of the universe.  


Friday, January 27, 2023

Last World War I Veterans

Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German emperor, was born on this day in 1859. He was the eldest grandchild of Queen Victoria, and was cousin of King George V of Great Britain and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. 

After posting this on Facebook, I was curious who the last war veterans were. Erich Kästner (1900-2008) was the last German veteran. Franz, Künstler (1900-2008) was the last who fought for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Frank Buckles (1900-2011) was the last American veteran. Lazare Ponticelli (1897-2008) was the last French veteran. Florence Green (1901-2012), who served Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) was the last British veteran and the last known veteran from any country.

Of my own relatives: My first cousin three times removed, Louis Crawford (1895-1917), was the first Fayette County, IL soldier to die in the war. My great-uncle Ed Strobel (1887-1961), was also a Fayette County native. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Bible Families: Cain

At about the time I turned 50 during the mid-’00s, I decided to deepen my Bible study. I wanted to study comparatively unfamiliar areas of the book, and I especially wanted to gain a better sense of its canonical interconnections (prophecies, allusions, historical connections, etc.). I had a then-30-year-old Bible that was a worse-for-wore hodgepodge of notes, jottings, and cross-references. I had also purchased a new NRSV. My old and new notetaking comprised both a midlife resolution and an enjoyable, renewed devotion to study. 

Eventually, I incorporated my notes into a Blogspot site, “Changing Bibles,” and three WordPress sites, “The Love of Bible Study,” “Psalm 121,” and “Bible Connections.” They are all still open, though not updated.  

Then, the notetaking evolved into my book, Walking with Jesus through the New Testament (Westminster John Knox Press, 2015). It’s the most recent of several Bible study books and articles that I’ve published, although the others were for Abingdon Press. (See my website, cleverly titled, if you're interested.) 

THEN, in 2017-2018, I did another series of notetaking as an effort to study the Bible start to finish. I posted those notes on my main blog, “Journeys Home.” Once finished, I put the notes into one file (215 pages!) and posted that file onto “Journeys Home” and “Changing Bibles.” I think I also shared these notes onto my other personal blog, “Grace, Place, and the Like” on WordPress. 

My initial resolution to read the Bible as a midlife project clearly got out of hand, but in a good way. 


Lately I’ve wanted to start a new Bible study project. I’ve been studying a wonderful book, Rabbi Barry H. Block, ed., The Social Justice Torah Commentary (New York: CCAR Press, 2021). But I didn’t take notes for blog posts. 

But I remembered that I have this poster on the back of my office door! It connects the names of Old Testament people starting (of course) with Adam and Eve. The shaded or colored sections are the twelve tribes of Israel. Judah is in the middle, leading to David and to Jesus. I saw this chart at a Bible book store years ago, regretted that I didn’t purchase it, and then ordered it from eBay.  

I decided to devote my next Bible study project following the Bible’ many genealogies. This will keep me busy with Bible study for several months What are some interesting things about certain persons named throughout the Old Testament?  

Genesis 4 gives us a genealogy of Cain. Genesis 5 gives us the beginning of the genealogy of Seth, which is the family with which the rest of the Old Testament is concerned. 

The first genealogy we come to is Genesis 4. I’ll use the KJV because it’s in the public domain.

Genesis 4:16  And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

18 And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech.

19 And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.

20 And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle.

21 And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.

22 And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.

23 And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.

24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

The first family genealogy in Genesis! 

My old Clark’s Commentary notes that name Enoch means “instructed, devoted, initiated.” It’s perhaps an indication that Cain devoted his son to God in some way. 

I have no answer to the perennial question, Where did all these people come from to populate the city that Cain built. 

Lamech is the first person in the Bible to have more than one wife. Clark indicates that other ancient culture assigns mythical importance to the first forgers and the first musicians. In focusing upon a single God, the Bible “demythologizes” origin stories and simply names the innovators: Tubalcain was the first artificer in brass and iron, Adam was the first nomadic shepherd and herder, and Jubal was the first musician. 

Scholars like the author of the NIB commentary note that the “mark of Cain” is not an indication of shame (as we use the phrase today) but of protection. In answering Cain’s despairing prayer, God also wants to stop the increase of violence and retribution. But in being wounded in some kind of conflict, Lamech takes vengeance into his own hands—and is happy about it! This foreshadows the increase of human violence in the years before the Flood. 

This is the extent of the genealogy of Cain's family.  When 1 Chronicles begins with lists of biblical names, it omits Cain's descendants and begins with Adam then Seth. 

Monday, January 23, 2023

Mythbusters 20

"Mythbusters" premiered twenty years ago today! I found this screen shot online of their first episode ( When I posted this on Facebook, a student commented, "That show shaped a generation!" 

Copied under fair use principles.