THE APOSTOLIC AGE
For Cain did not stop merely to rest from his travels, but also to contemplate a vision of the distant future and the potential of his late brother. Thus the first sabbath is portrayed as a day of meditation on the past, the present, and the future. It is a day when the distinctions between actual, potential, and lost can become blurred in a higher vision. The story of Cain's journeys and visions also serves the narrative function of bridging the gap between us and the first humans. No matter where we are, on any major continent, we can imagine that this early man might have come here in his twenty-year wandering, and might have had a sabbath vision of our homes as they are today.
We may speculate at how amazing such a vision of the future might have seemed to him. The whole human story is brought full circle as Cain brings his vision of us into focus, even as we try to imagine him and the others who were there at the start of the human story. At this point in the story, the gap between human and animal is still narrow enough to be crossed once more, when Rama whose name might come from the Hebrew word meaning high, or from the Sanskrit word meaning joy, but the modern reader may be reminded of Ramapithecus , the daughter of Flo and Faben?
Their daughter is Jashar, the title character. We may suppose that Jashar is in her teens and Cain is close to forty when they meet and are drawn together after his return from exile. Human's blessing at the marriage of Cain and Jashar brings us back to the fundamental theme of separation and togetherness. Human is saddened whenever his family is divided, and we understand that the exile of Cain is only the first such division of humanity. But marriage can reunite two separated strands of Human's posterity. So Human rejoices and blesses the institution of marriage, which continually reunites fragments of his family in new combinations.
Human and Cain both prophesy at the wedding feast, but only Human is accepted as a true prophet. Although Cain's contemporary family rejects Cain's prophecy, they accept him as a member of the clan, and the true and false prophets are never separated again.
So the story is here setting an example for religious tolerance, to suggest that people with different beliefs should appreciate each other and remember their human kinship. We may also guess that, by our standards, Cain's false prophecy of a future civilization might have been rather more interesting than Human's true but trite predictions of joy and sorrow in marriage. At another level, the end of section 2 could also be interpreted as a personal plea for acceptance by the author of Jashar.
He obviously hopes that we will find value in his work, in spite of the fact that it is false prophecy. After the marriage of Jashar, the perspective abruptly shifts. Instead of a tight focus on a few individuals, there is a softer focus and a broader perspective on the world. Yet as the first humans fade from our view, we get a few last glimpses into their lives.
The marriages of Seth's sons to their cousin-nieces remind us that incest taboos might have to be less tightly defined when humanity was so small. We perceive the importance of the aged matriarch Eve in holding the human family together, as the family scatters after her death. We learn of Seth's position as a cultural heir to Abel, when Seth passes Abel's hunting techniques on to the next generation.
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But this generation is also moved by Cain's visions, and so we find contributions of both Cain and Abel in the developing human culture. The most important fact that we are told here about these early humans is that they take education of children as a commandment from God. The wording of the commandment "God told them that children must learn from their elders' wisdom" is ambiguous as to whether it is commanded to the parents or to the children.
In either case, the importance of education in human history is strikingly emphasized by the fact that this is the first explicit mention of any specific commandment, following only the general commandment, "Let there be another story. The importance of cultural heritage may suggest another interpretation of Cain's visions. We understand that Abel died without giving his genes to biological children, but perhaps we should interpret the phrase "children of Abel" as referring to his cultural heirs, who have received his lore and his ideas.
After all, genes and ideas both are patterns that can endure across generations one stored in chromosomes and the other in synapses. So in a cultural sense, people of Seth's family might also be children of Abel whom Cain foresaw. A desecration of trees by people is the pivotal event leading to the fall of humanity in Genesis.
The Biblical story of the Garden of Eden is echoed in our modern ecological myth of the great primeval forest that has been destroyed by the growth of civilization. Destruction of trees is also a central theme in the Jashar Apocryphon, but the story here is a complex counterpoint to both Genesis and modern ecological thinking. In the first place, the tension is not just between trees and people, but between trees and herbivorous animals. Long before the advent of humanity, the forests were already decimated by great herbivores.
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Elephants and mastodons grew too large for any contemporary predators, and multiplied until their population reached the Malthusian limits of their devastated ecology. But then the early humans, with their sophisticated hunting technology, became effective predators of the great herbivores, reduced their populations, and so allowed the forest to spread.
Thus, the expansive paleolithic forests are presented here as a creation of humanity, during the period when people knew how to hunt but had not yet learned to farm. We may notice that this paleolithic Eden is like a garden not only in the sense of being dominated by plants, but also in the sense of being artificially sustained by human activity.
At the end of section 3, the narrative leads us to look at the world from above, as if from God's perspective. Our attention is diverted from the forests to the glaciers, which spread and flow during the long ice age, reminding us of the primeval jinn-patterns. When the ice age draws to a close, however, we search for the humans again, but they are frustratingly difficult to find in the vast wilderness of trees. Their technological backwardness has made them almost insignificant in the forests.
So God is angry and impatient for the agricultural revolution to begin.
Thus, in this story, technological stagnation rather than some moral depravity or injustice is the source of God's anger at the beginning of the story of Noah. Recalling the introductory creation sequence in section 1 may give us some clues as to why God should be so dissatisfied with the paleolithic world of forests. As the setting for a story, a world dominated by trees would probably be much less interesting than a world dominated by animals; and a world dominated by humans should have the greatest potential of all for a good story, because of the human abilities to hope and dream and to distinguish good and evil.
To achieve dominance of the world, however, the humans must change from predators to herbivores, that is, from hunters to farmers, and the forests must be decimated anew. Noah is introduced here as the agent whom God has selected to bring about this transformation of humanity, and the consequent reversal of peoples' relationship with the forests.
The book of Numbers In the Jashar manuscript, the daughter of Zelophehad becomes the Noah of the flood. Confusing these two Noahs would be less likely in Hebrew, where their names are spelt differently. According to Genesis 4. But chapter 4 of Genesis lists Naamah at the end of an eight-generation genealogical sequence that is almost the same as the sequence that ends at Noah in chapter 5 of Genesis. For example, Genesis 5 also lists Lamech as the name of Noah's father. It is natural to see some link between Naamah and Noah, and there has been a rabbinical tradition that identifies Naamah as Noah's wife.
In this story, however, Tubal-cain is identified as Noah's husband, rather than as Naamah's brother. Thus, from the Biblical perspective, Noah in this story seems to be a mixture of Noah the son of Lamech from Genesis 5 , Noah the daughter of Zelophehad from Numbers 26 , and Naamah the daughter of Lamech and Zillah from Genesis 4.
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Once we have remarked this mixing of characters from Genesis and Numbers, however, we are left with a more fundamental question: What happens to the story when Noah is recast as a woman? By casting Noah as a woman, the narrative achieves a more even balance between men's and women's roles.
There is an interesting symmetry between the two central couples: Human and Eve, and Noah and Tubalcain. The subsequent naming of descendants "humans," "Noahites" calls our attention primarily to the husband in one couple Human and the wife in the other Noah. But Human and Noah both rely on the skills, the strength, and the faithful support of their spouses, Eve and Tubalcain. So, in this text, leading and supporting roles are not type-cast as exclusively male or female. Otherwise, however, Noah's gender actually makes very little difference in the story. Of all the factors that differ here from the Biblical story the nature of the flood, the wooden vehicle, the promise of the rainbow, etc.
And yet Noah's gender tends to capture readers' attention more than any other aspect of the story. Indeed, we could readily imagine that a reader might more easily accept Goliath being transformed into a short Philistine general, assassinated by David! Thus, our reaction to Noah's womanhood in this story may show something fundamental about our own attitudes towards sexual identity.
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The Bible tells us that Noah was the first farmer to plant a vineyard. In the Jashar version, this development-of-agriculture theme becomes the central focus of the story. The story of Noah becomes a myth about the beginnings of the agricultural revolution in the Anatolian highlands, and about the origins of the three great linguistic groups Semitic, Indo-European, and Dravidian that came out of this period.
The Hamites whose identity in the Bible seems somewhat ill-defined are here clearly identified with the Dravidians, by the name of Ham's wife. Similarly, Juropa's name clearly links the Jafetites with the Indo-Europeans. The manuscript apparently uses the letter J in names to denote the Hebrew letter yod, so "Juropa" could be "Yuropa" or "Europa.
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