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Genesis 1:27: Does It Conceal the Legend of Lilith and the Origin of Vampires?

Updated: Apr 8

Introduction


Genesis 1:27, a cornerstone of the biblical creation narrative, states, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." This verse has sparked various interpretations and legends, most notably the myth of Lilith. This article aims to dissect the origins, development, and implications of the Lilith legend and its relation to the biblical text.


The Lilith Legend in Context

Historical Origins of the Myth

The figure of Lilith is not found in the Bible, except for a possible but debated reference in Isaiah 34:14, where the Hebrew text mentions a "screech owl" or "night creature" that some have linked to Lilith. The legend primarily originates from Jewish folklore and various rabbinic commentaries, where Lilith is portrayed as the first woman created before Eve.


Hebrew Term "Lilith" in Isaiah 34:14

The Hebrew word "li·lithʹ" appears in Isaiah 34:14, describing the desolation of Edom and the creatures inhabiting its ruins. This term has been translated in various ways, including "screech owl" (King James Version), "night-monster" (American Standard), "nightjar" (New English Bible, Updated American Standard Version), and "night hag" (Revised Standard), with some versions, like The Jerusalem Bible, opting to transliterate it directly as “Lilith.”


Scholars have suggested that "li·lithʹ" might be a loanword from ancient Sumerian and Akkadian, referring to a mythological female air demon (Lilitu). However, Professor G.R. Driver proposes a different origin, linking it to a root word meaning “every kind of twisting motion or twisted object.” This is similar to the Hebrew word for “night” (laʹyil or laiʹlah), which implies "wrapping or enfolding the earth." This interpretation could suggest a connection to the nightjar, a nocturnal bird known for its rapid, twisting flight while hunting moths, beetles, and other insects at night. The nightjar, as described by the naturalist Tristram, becomes highly active at dusk, hunting swiftly and with intricate movements.


The nightjar is a medium-sized bird, about 30 cm (12 inches) long with a wingspan exceeding 50 cm (20 inches). Its plumage, soft and mottled with gray and brown, resembles that of an owl, aiding in noiseless flight. The bird's large mouth has led to its nickname "goatsucker," stemming from an old legend that it sucked milk from goats.


Regarding the bird's presence in Edom, the region's arid nature is suitable for certain nightjar varieties. For instance, the Egyptian nightjar (Caprimulgus aegyptius) predominantly lives in desert environments, occupying acacia groves and tamarisk bushes, and hunts during twilight. Another variety (Caprimulgus nubicus) inhabits areas between Jericho and the Red Sea, similar to the landscape of Edom.


Genesis 1:27 and the Two-Creation Theory

The theory of two separate creation accounts in Genesis (1:27 and 2:7, 20–22) has been used to justify the existence of Lilith. Proponents argue that these accounts allow for two different women, Eve and Lilith. However, this interpretation is not supported by a literal and contextual reading of the biblical text. ( See THE FALSE DOCTRINE OF PRE-ADAMITES: Was There Other Humans and Death Before Adam and Eve?)


Examining the Biblical Text

Unity of the Genesis Creation Account

A careful examination of the Genesis account shows a cohesive narrative. The so-called two-creation theory often arises from a misunderstanding of the literary structure and purpose of the Genesis text. The account in Genesis 1:27 is a summary of creation, while Genesis 2 provides a more detailed focus on the creation of humans, particularly Adam and Eve. (See GENESIS 1 AND 2: Are There Two Creation Accounts?; Genesis 2:4 BDC: “God” is used in Genesis chapter 1, while chapter 2 changes to Jehovah God. Does this mean that there are two different authors of Genesis?)


Lack of Biblical Evidence for Lilith

There is no direct biblical evidence to support the existence of Lilith as Adam's first wife or as a demonic figure. The story of Lilith is an extrabiblical legend that developed in post-biblical Jewish folklore and has no foundation in the canonical Scriptures.


The Influence of Jewish Folklore

Rabbinic and Kabbalistic Legends

In some rabbinic and kabbalistic texts, Lilith is depicted as a rebellious first wife of Adam who refused to submit to him and left the Garden of Eden. These texts are not part of the biblical canon and represent a later development in Jewish mysticism and folklore.


The Development of the Vampire Myth

The legend further evolved to portray Lilith as the "Queen of the Demons," associated with the murder of infants and the transformation of young boys into vampires. This aspect of the myth has more in common with medieval superstitions and folklore than with biblical teachings.



Theological Implications

Misinterpretation and Its Consequences

The misinterpretation of Genesis 1:27 and the infusion of the Lilith myth into biblical understanding can lead to a distorted view of the creation narrative and the nature of evil in the biblical worldview. It is crucial to differentiate between scriptural teachings and later folklore.


Upholding Biblical Authority

As a conservative Bible scholar, it is essential to uphold the authority and integrity of the biblical text. This involves critically examining and challenging interpretations and legends that arise from outside the biblical canon.


Conclusion

Separating Biblical Truth from Myth

The story of Lilith, while culturally and historically significant, does not find its origins in the biblical text but rather in post-biblical Jewish folklore and mysticism. The account in Genesis 1:27 remains focused on the creation of humanity, male and female, in the image of God, without reference to any figures such as Lilith.


The Importance of Contextual Biblical Interpretation

Proper interpretation of the Bible requires understanding the historical, cultural, and literary context of the text. Adhering to a literal translation philosophy and a historical-grammatical method of interpretation helps prevent the infusion of extrabiblical myths like that of Lilith into biblical understanding.


In summary, the legend of Lilith serves as a reminder of the need for discernment in differentiating between biblical truth and later mythological developments. Understanding Genesis 1:27 in its proper context reaffirms the importance of maintaining the purity of biblical teachings and guarding against the incorporation of non-biblical legends into the fabric of scriptural interpretation.


About the Author

EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 220+ books. In addition, Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).


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