Can the anthropological tools such as kinship analysis be used to identify what is historical and what is anachronism in the Bible? I believe so. I've been having an interesting conversation with Scott L at The Prodigal Thought
on this very subject. Scott takes the view that people living in the time described by Genesis "had some revelation, but that revelation was in seed form. It’s only as the revelation progresses in the OT writings that we get the idea that the Messiah would be the ‘Son’ of God."
Yet Scott apparently believes what Jesus says in John 8:56 - "Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad." So my question is, if you believe what Jesus said, why do you doubt that Abraham had expectation of the appearing of the Son of God? It is a contradiction to say that you believe Jesus and then to discount what He says as anachronism.
Abraham’s people certainly didn’t have the perspective we have today, but they had the ancient expectation of the Son of God’s appearing in the flesh. This ancient expectation came from what God promised in Genesis 3:15 – the Protevangelion. In other words, God, in His immense faithfulness, has raised up witnesses to His Righteous Son in every generation. Just as an infant recognizes the parent and responds to that love, without intellectual knowledge, so humanity has had consciousness of the Father’s love for the Son, even before Jesus’ Incarnation. This is proof that the Son abides eternally with the Father and was with the Father “in the beginning” and that all things were made through Him.
Scott goes on to say: "So Abraham had some kind of revelation in his day. But I think it could possibly be a little too anachronistic to read a full theology of the ‘Son of God incarnate’ back into Gen 3:15 and Abraham’s understanding. Even those words in Gen 3:15 would not have registered as Messianic to Adam and Eve. They would have been thinking about one of their immediate sons or grandsons."
How very perceptive! My research on the kinship of Abraham’s people using the Genesis geneological information shows that they DID believe it would be one of their sons! They traced bloodline through the mothers and made sure that the daughters of priests (such as Mary) only married priests or the sons of priests. The intermarriage between priestly lines begins in Genesis 4 and continues until the time of Jesus. The lines of Cain and Seth intermarried. The lines of Ham and Shem intermarried, and the lines of Joktan and Sheba intermarried. These are the ruler-priest ancestors of Abraham and it is from these priestly lines that Joseph and Mary are descended. Therefore we have no reason to doubt that Abraham believed that the Son of God would one day be born among his people. This is the heart of Holy Tradition received by Abraham and passed to the Church.
I believe that anthropology is the best discipline for examining the tradition that Abraham "our father in the faith" received. I recognize that this is a controversial point. Looking at Abraham and his people through the lens of anthropology, the evidence points not to "some special revelation", but rather that Abraham's Horite people received a well-developed tradition that involved worship of Horus, who was called the "Son of God".
The Jewish historian Josephus, quoting an ancient authority, speaks of the Horites as "conquerors of Egypt and founders of the Assyrian Empire." Abraham's grandfather was Na'hor - a Horite name. Abraham's mother was the daughter of Na'hor, so she too was Horite. I don't think that we should be overly surprised then to find that Abraham believed in and expected the appearing of the Son of God.
The phrase “to this day”, which is found throughout the first five books of the Bible, implies considerable time between the event described and the time of the writer. However, we must be careful when labeling biblical material as anachronisms. Some so-called anachronisms, such as camels in Abraham’s time (Gen. 24), have been shown to represent realities of the time. We take as an example the representation of camel riding on Mesopotamian seal cylinders dating to Abraham’s time. (See Gordon/Rendsburg, in BANE:120-12; and Journal of Near Eastern Studies 3, 1944, pp. 187-93.)
So can anthropology help to clarify what is and what isn't anachronism? What do you think?