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Chapter 1. Exploring Family > The Intriguing History of Family

The Intriguing History of Family

The Intriguing History of Family To better understand family, the complex dynamics of relationships within families, and how to more usefully relate to our subjects’ perceptions of how they fit into their families and often the world, we need to start at the beginning. Ancient Legends The first origins of the structure of family vary by geography and historical documentation. According to ancient Chinese legend, families were first identified as separate social structures when Emperor Fu Xi standardized a naming system in 2852 B.C. to ease the burden of census taking, which also led to better defining matrimonial relationships. By taking family names, the structure of individual families became more distinct. Families became very important and more technically were attributed as consisting of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course children. It was widely accepted that ancestors who had passed on were still active members of family, too—perhaps not seen but still worshipped and considered decision influencers. Legend has also credited Fu Xi with inventing the first 100 Chinese family names, which usually represented animals and totem worship. The popular last name Long, for instance, means dragon. Names became increasingly significant over time—and even exclusive. In the Western Han Dynasty (2063 B.C.–A.D. 23), those who dared to have the same name as the emperor could face the penalty of death. During the reign of Emperor Liu Bang, if you even had the syllable “bang” in your last name, you were forced to change it. In addition, members of a family with one name couldn’t marry members of a family with the same name. This led to all kinds of changes, and biologists will tell you that this was beneficial for society in general. The Creationist First Family Marrying outside of your immediate family wasn’t a luxury for the biblical first family. If you read Genesis, the creation story, you read that the very first family to walk the earth was a family of four: Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. Many historians, including Sir Isaac Newton, calculate the origins of this first family as having occurred around 4000 B.C. Where was their family home, The Garden of Eden? Some say it was in Iran or the Tigris and Euphrates Valley. Others say it was in Missouri; even Ohio has had its hat thrown into this first-family-home ring. It is almost certain that by the publish date of this book, the location of The Garden of Eden will probably still not be absolutely confirmed. What is known is a bit of how this first family developed. As stated in scripture, Cain was the first born—as in the first human being ever born on the planet. Perhaps that set up family dynamics for generations to come, because Cain seemed to have had some issues with the second-born child, Abel. In fact, according to Genesis 4:1–8, “Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” The impetus for this grave act was jealousy. But exactly why Cain was jealous is up for interpretation. The more accepted understanding is that Cain was jealous of the attention Abel received from God, who preferred Abel’s offering over Cain’s. But the Midrashic interpretation of this event is different: Yes, jealousy was still the motive, but not jealousy over God’s favors. Apparently, Cain and Abel each had twin sisters, which also meant they had future wives queued up and ready for them. Despite the fact that they were twins, Abel’s betrothed wife was considered the better-looking one, and because there were literally no other fish in the biblical sea, Cain was pretty fired up about this injustice. When Abel suggested they let God decide by means of a sacrifice, Cain was even more upset when God rejected his offering and proceeded to attack Abel in a fit of rage. Whichever way this act went down, the ending remains the same, and the initial outlook for the original family seemed bleak. However, if you read Genesis 5, you’ll discover that three sons were born. The third, oft-overlooked son was named Seth. In addition to those three children, you’ll see the phrase, “other sons and daughters.” According to the Book of Jubilees, the family continued to expand when Seth married his sister, Azura. This was well before the Fu Xi decree, or any other man-made decrees for that matter. All things being equal, everything turned out pretty well for Seth and Azura. They had a couple of kids, and Seth lived until he was 912 years old—not too shabby at all. But we can go back even further. The Evolutionist First Family The other set of beliefs about first families comes via archaeology, less creationist and more evolutionist. This belief takes you back much earlier than 4000 B.C.—much, much earlier. Scientists will tell you that one of the first families on earth may not have been written about, but its members were all found together. Estimated to have been living together between 3.9 and 3 million years ago, and found in Hadar, Ethiopia, “the first family” consisted of 13 individuals: Nine adults and four children, males and females, were all entombed together. Most likely it was an “extended family” of the same species. Many anthropologists, led by collaborators Donald Johanson and Tim White, believe that this “first family” was a mainstay in the story of human evolution. These earliest of ancestors were at the top of a tree that would branch out for millions of years all the way to modern times and to modern families. The Making of a Family After looking at three different parts of the world and three very different stages of life on this planet, what do we know about the origins of family? There was a need to band together for survival and support. There were directives from authority that led to structure around unions and tribes. There was creativity in naming distinct groupings meaningfully. There was proof of togetherness and affection. There was evidence of lifelong love, dramatic uncouplings, a plethora of progeny, and violent upheaval. There was a whole lot of drama. There was proof of togetherness and affection. There was evidence of lifelong love, dramatic uncouplings, a plethora of progeny, and violent upheaval. There was a whole lot of drama.

  

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