Saturday, October 9, 2010

Genesis Chapter 2

Sorry it has been so long - I was in Milwaukee defending a deposition that took longer than expected. But on to it -

You want a traditional creation myth? This is it. Man formed out of mud and a deity breathes life into it. This is very unoriginal. But there are some other very interesting things in here as well.

For example, Chapter 2, verses 1-4 are actually the natural completion of Chapter 1's creation story. They are a description of God's decision to rest on the seventh day. Why the editor decided to place this at the beginning of Chapter 2 instead of Chapter 1 is a mystery to me. My initial thought is that it is an attempt by the compiler to meld together two very different styles and stories. Chapter 1 is the story of God's creation of the universe, and is very well-structured. Chapter 2, however, is a description of God's creation of Man, and is more of a traditional fable. Maybe the beginning of Chapter 2 is meant to hide that there were two separate authors.

Another item of interest is the content of Verses 10-14. It is a very clear description of where Eden is, (note that Eden is not mentioned in Chapter 1), and the rivers to find there: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, Euphrates. It is almost a travelogue for wherever the land of Havilah is. Havilah apparently has "excellent" gold and has bdellium (interestingly, a cheaper relative of myrrh - great foreshadowing), and lapis lazuli. The other place mentioned - Cush - is not given any such advertisement. It is just where the Gihon flows.

Anyway, God places man in Eden and tells him of a special tree - the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad (which God created when he also created the Tree of Life). God tells the man that he cannot eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, or he will be surely doomed to die. Gen. 2: 16-17. Given that we know that man eats the fruit and doesn't immediately die, this suggests man would have been immortal prior to eating the fruit, but eating it fated him to eventual death.

God decides man should not be alone and creates the animals and birds for man to name and to see which would be a suitable partner. Gen. 2: 18-20. Two important things jump out at me from these three verses. First, God decides, in Verses 18-19, to create the animals in order to find a suitable partner for man. God parades the animals before man in order for man to name them, and to see which would be a suitable partner. One would think God would know what would be a suitable partner for man, but God apparently does not. Once more, god is not omniscient. Second, this is the first example of man's free will. Man gets to choose the names for the animals and whether any of them is a suitable partner.

As we find out, none of the animals is a "suitable partner" and so God puts man to sleep, takes his rib (no informed consent necessary apparently), and creates another being. Again, man gets to choose the name, "woman." She was suitable, and according to Verse 24, "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body." For modern purposes, I note that the verse does not necessarily say that every man will join with a woman, but only that when one does leave his parents to be with a woman this is why.

Finally, you may have noted that I have not used the names Adam and Eve. Why? Because this translation does not. From what I can glean, the name Adam simply comes from the Hebrew word "adam" which literally means "man." And Eve is not named until the next Chapter. Once the New American Bible uses the names, so will I.

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