Thursday, July 20, 2006

Genesis 2

like many others, i'm sure, i have often had trouble understanding why chapter divisions have been created where they have in certain spots in the bible. the genesis 1 to genesis 2 transition is one of those places. why lay out this elaborate and very orderly story of the days of creation and then break the chapter between day 6 and day 7. doesn't it seem logical to put all the days in one chapter and then start with the creation of man story? eugene peterson makes sense of this in "the message" when he uses this language:
"1 Heaven and Earth were finished, down to the last detail. 2 By the seventh day God had finished his work. On the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 God blessed the seventh day. He made it a Holy Day Because on that day he rested from his work, all the creating God had done. "

peterson sees this seventh day as wholly (holy?) separate from the flurry of activity in the previous six. he paints the picture of a pleased and satisfied God looking over all the wonders he has now completed. (as an aside, i love the use of the word "host" here, seemingly indicating this inumerable array of birds and mammals and plants and fish and mountains and streams, etc.) i guess this transition is sort of like when i begin teaching my class with, "ok, so remember that yesterday we talked about..." in other words, if we see that chapter 1 was all about, "here's what God did, and it was good," then the intro to chapter 2 maybe a summary of that idea.

so moving on past the transition, we come to the creation of man. while this may be seen as the crown jewel of God's work, let us not neglect the contrast of the average man with, say, the average national park (see previous post). but obviously there is something special about being created "in the image of God." i do, however, think that this passage highlights God, and not man, once again as we see certainly one of the most miraculous acts in all the scriptures, the ultra-complex human body formed from a handful of dirt. not too shabby. many scholars believe that this is meant to be a deliberate reminder of where we came from and where we would be (or not be) without the Creator.

jared raised the question of naming in response to my last post and i have just a couple thoughts on that at this point, as God now gives the duty of naming his "host" over to the breathing dirt-man. the obvious answer to why there is so much naming going on is the dominion approach. if you name something, that sure indicates some sort of control or responsibility over/for that thing, right? and here it seems that God is handing over that responsibility at least in part to his newly appointed governor of the garden. however, there also seems to be a recognizable "fable motif" here. this, again, is a major source of contraversy among genesis scholars. my likely naive and certainly underinformed observation is this: there is a certain, "how the leopard got his spots," to much of these first few chapters of genesis. by this i mean that modern naturally observable phenomena are explained with a tale of ancient divine/natural interaction. now, the message that God made it all, and it is all good stays perfectly intact, while some of our certainty of the more specific details may take something of a hit. thoughts?

finally, the whole woman thing. i think that for too long i have read this as God trying and trying and trying to find a suitable helper for adam, with no success, and then finally digging deep into his bag of tricks, he pulls out the trump card and trump cards, a naked woman. more likley...ok...pretty much certainly, God knew all along what he would do, and he was sort of setting adam up for the grand finale. being married has actually helped me understand this idea more fully, as i am a big believer in the idea the God is the full and perfect representation of all things male and female. in other words, God is not a "man" perse, but a complete holy being. if God were "strong" without being "tender," would God not crush us all within moments of creating us? maybe not, but does this make sense? i have discussed/debated with some folks recently who see this creation order as essential to understanding properly the role of women in the church and in marriage (and i suspect to some degree, they would argue in society in general). in other words, man came first, woman is therefore a limited and subjected "piece" of man. a fundamentalist reading could indeed take you down this road, but a big-picture, in-context reading seems less likely to do so.

this is long enough, although i never even got to comment on the possible discrepancy between the genesis 1 account of the creation of humans and that found in genesis 2. okay, it's not that compelling of a debate, but if anyone feels the urge to comment, please do.


Laura said...

I always enjoy reading your commentary Cory, keep it up!

Jared said...

Hey Cory -

The chapter division here really annoys me as well. I like the separation idea you suggested.

Here I also find it interesting that the titles surrounding God's name shift. After the bit that feels like it belongs in chapter one, the chapter shifts from "Elohim" (translated by my Bible as "God") to the exclusive use of "Yahweh Elohim" (LORD God). This continues until Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden and then shifts to simply "Yahweh" (LORD) in chapter four. I'm not sure there is any significance to make of this. I believe that in Exodus "Yahweh" is said to be given for the first time to Moses (I could have that wrong), but the progression here seems to go from the abstract to the personal, much like the change in focus between chapters one and two.

You comments on Eve made me go back and read the text. I noticed that while I had always seen something particular in the creation of man - "special creation" - the fact is, his creation is really no different from the plants and animals. All were drawn from the Earth by God and given life. While I don't think this makes humanity any less unique (the God's image thing), it is interesting to note that it is the creation of woman that is singular in its description.

Anyone want to weigh in on the "actual Adam" debate? I need help.

Thanks again for your post.

abby said...

Hey Cory,
Thanks for sharing all your thoughts on Genesis. I'm enjoying reading them, even though I can't add much to the discussion after 8 hours a day of grad classes. I'm actually pretty impressed I can comprehend them at that point :-) Please keep writing!