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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Seth, Traditions Concerning
There are many traditions concerning Seth (q.v.), not only in Rabbinic, but also in Christian, writings. According to the Rabbinic traditions, Seth was one of the thirteen who came circumcised into the world. The rest were Adam, Enoch, Noah, Shem, Terak, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, and Jeremiah (Midrash Tillim, fol. 10, Colossians 2). The book Shene Luchoth says that the soul of the righteous Abel passed into the body of Seth, and afterwards this same soul passed into Moses; thus the law, which was known to Adam and in which Abel had been instructed, was not new to Moses (Eisenmenger, Neuentdecktes Judenthum, 1, 645). Josephus relates that after the things that were to take place had been revealed to Seth how the earth was to be destroyed, first with water and then with fire lest those things which he had discovered should perish from the memory of his posterity, he set up two pillars, one of brick, the other of stone, and he wrote there on all the science he had acquired, hoping that, in the event of the brick pillar perishing by the rain, the stone would endure (Ant. 1, 2). Suidas (s.v. Σήθ ) says, "Seth was the son of Adam of him it is said the sons of God went in unto the daughters of men — that is to say, the sons of Seth went in unto the daughters of Cain; for in that age Seth was called God, because he had discovered Hebrew letters and the names of the stars, but especially on account of his great piety, so that he was the first to bear the name of God." Anastasius Sinaita (q.v.) in his ῾Οδηγός , p. 269 (ed. Gretser. Ingolst. 1606]), says that when God created Adam after his image and likeness, he breathed into him grace and illumination and a ray of the Holy Spirit. But when he sinned this glory left him, and his face became clouded. Then he became the father of Cain and Abel. But afterwards, it is said in Scripture, "he begat a son in his own likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth," which is not said of Cain and Abel; and this means that Seth was begotten in the likeness of unfallen man, and after the image of Adam in paradise; and he called his name Seth — that is, by interpretation, "resurrection," because in him he saw the resurrection of his departed beauty and wisdom and glory, and radiance of the Holy Spirit. And all those then living, when they saw how the face of Seth shone with divine light, and heard him speak with divine wisdom, said, "He is God." Therefore his sons were commonly called the sons of God. That Seth means "resurrection" is also the opinion of Augustine (De Civitate Dei, 15, 17, 18): "Ita Seth, quod interpretatur resurrectio."
The most remarkable of the traditions, however, is undoubtedly the one which we read in the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, c. 19:
"While John, therefore, was thus teaching those in Hades, the first created and forefather Adam heard and said to his son Seth, My son, I wish thee to tell the forefathers of the race of men and the prophets all that thou heardest from Michael, the archangel, when I sent thee to the gates of Paradise to implore God that he might send thee his angel to give thee oil from the tree of mercy, with which to anoint my body when I was sick. Then Seth said, Prophets and patriarchs, Hear. When my father Adam, the first created, was about to fall, once upon a time, into death, he sent me to make entreaty to God, very close by the gate of Paradise, that he would guide me by an angel to the tree of compassion, and that I might take oil and anoint my father, and that he might rise up from his sickness, which thing, therefore, I then did. And after the prayer an angel of the Lord came and said to me, What, Seth, dost thou ask? Dost thou ask oil which raiseth up the sick; or the tree from which this oil flows on account of the sickness of thy father? This is not to be found now. Go, therefore, and tell thy father that after the accomplishing of 5500 years from the creation of the world, then shall come into the world the only-begotten Son of God, being made man; and he shall anoint him with this oil, and shall raise him up, and shall baptize with water and with the Holy Spirit both him and those out of him, and then shall he be healed of every disease but now this is impossible. When the prophets and the patriarchs heard these words, they rejoiced greatly."
In the Apocryphal literature Seth plays a prominent role, and even in Reynard the Fox Seth is mentioned as seeking for the oil of compassion:
"Die drei gegrabenen Namen Brachte Seth der Fromme vom Paradiese hernieder, Als er das Oel der Barmherzigkeit suchte."
See Fabricius, Cod. Pseudepigr. V.T. 1, 139 sq.; 2, 49 sq.; Syncellus, Chronogr. p. 10; Selden, Diss. de Horto Hedenis in his Otia Theolog. p. 600; Baring-Gould, Legends of the Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 81 sq. (B.P.)
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Seth, Traditions Concerning'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/s/seth-traditions-concerning.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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