Category Archives: Genesis

CTP Class — Reactions to Eden (Genesis 3.8-24)

Creation of Adam ( )
Creation of Adam ( ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to do something a little different with our reading of Genesis. As I have said from the beginning, if we read Scripture as Christians we should do so at some point in that cycle (the ‘T’ in CTP) canonically. Because of this, I want to read Genesis 3.8–24 next to later understandings of the text from within Scripture.

If you have just the books in the Protestant canon, you will miss the development of Adam and the Fall. Let’s define the Fall just a bit. This is the usual notion that Adam’s eating of the fruit brought death and despair to all people who are also his descendents. Only in Christ is the remedy found. But, this almost requires a particular view of how hold the earth is and where we all came from, i.e, Adam about 6000 years ago.

There are other alternatives that rely on Reason, and Tradition to interpret Scripture. For one, Adam could be Israel, or representative of Israel (perhaps even an ancient tribal king). Since the Old Testament doesn’t mention Adam any more, nor afford any cause of the condition of humanity to him, it is likely Adam is simply a progenitor of Israel. Remember, Israel is the only one with covenants with God and is a product of a covenant. It is better to see Adam as the first human in covenant with God. Another thing to think about — there is no sin outside of the covenant (just as there is not rewards from God outside the covenant). So, Adam could still bring sin to the world (i.e., the knowledge of what it means to be without God) because he finally knew what it meant to be with God.

A side note, and you don’t have to agree with me. I see Adam as the first person God covenanted with. This is not the first of humans, although he is the first of God’s creation, with creation remaining not the physical but the method of God and humans. Adam is the first of living beings, so Eve is the mother of living beings, with living being defined in Genesis 2 as “living soul.” When Adam and Eve left the Garden, they took with them the knowledge of God and in doing so, the covenant and hope of God which culminates in Christ. Is Adam historical? Maybe. Could be. But not as the first human, but as the first human in God’s plan. 

A few verses to consider when seeing the theology of  Adam and his sin develop. We see it really take off in what we Second Temple Judaism. Both of the books below are in Catholic and Orthodox bibles as well as Anglican Articles of Religion, deuterocanonical lists, and liturgies (PDF).

  • Wisdom 2.23–24 and Wisdom 10.1–2. I think these are very important, especially when exploring how wisdom became Wisdom, the female attribute of God and how she saved Adam because of his sin. (Compare this to 1 Co. 1.24.)
  • Sirach 15:14; 17:1-4; 25:24; 40:1; 49:16. Sirach 25.24 is particularly important given how many see Eve as the root cause of the sin.

I favor a date of 50BCE for Wisdom, placing it among the Hellenized Jews (perhaps in Alexandria. Hellenized means those Jews who used Greco-Roman philosophy to interpret Judaism). Sirach shows some Hellenization, but is dated much earlier. Both are used by the writers of the NT, which I also afford a certain measurement of Hellenization.

St. Paul, then, is the first of those we could call Christian to use Adam as a means to understand Christ.

In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul uses Adam as a way to exalt Christ and the benefits of the Resurrection. He does this only by comparison, with Wisdom’s view of Adam’s death in mind. See:

  • 1 Corinthians 15.22 and 1 Corinthians 15.45–47.

However, in Romans 5.12–21, St. Paul gives us something more. He gives us a new reaction to the Genesis story.  Adam is no longer just a comparison between the temporal and the eternal, but now provides a problem Jesus resolves. Focus specifically on Romans 5.15, but look at different translations (especially the Revised English Bible’s translation of this).1

For those following along elsewhere, last week I asked for songs that make use of the Adam and Eve story. This time, I am thinking of songs that remind us of God’s grace or perhaps, better, what we want to think of God’s grace.

Back to Genesis 3.8–24. Look at God’s reaction to Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Look especially at God’s fear in 3.22–24.

Admittedly, I’m more interested in St. Paul’s reaction than I am God’s, but…

Also, Prince is now covering Nicole Nordeman.

  1. “But God’s act of grace is out of all proportion to Adam’s wrongdoing. For if the wrongdoing of that one man brought death upon so many, its effect is vastly exceeded by the grace of God and the gift that came to so many by the grace of that one man, Jesus Christ.”

Genesis Rabbah 56.3 on Isaac’s wooden burden

This is from בְְּרֵאשִׁית רַבָּה:

AND ABRAHAM TOOK THE WOOD OF THE BURNT-OFFERING (xii, 6) like one who carries his stake on his shoulder.  AND HE TOOK IN HIS HAND THE FIRE AND THE KNIFE (MA’AKELETH). R. Hanina said: Why is a knife called ma’akeleth? Because it makes food (oklim) fit to be eaten.  While the Rabbis said: All eating (akiloth) which Israel enjoy in this world, they enjoy only in the merit of that MA’AKELETH (KNIFE).

AND THEY WENT BOTH OF THEM TOGETHER (ib.): one to bind and the other to be bound, one to slaughter and the other to be slaughtered.

This is from the Freedom and Simon translation. They note “stake” is the “stake of one’s execution” (a Roman method… a cross).

In the Jewish Study Bible, 2nd Edition (Oxford), the editors in Genesis 22 note that sacrifice is not execution.

Discuss (while I make notes for my dissertation)

CTP — Arummim and Arum (a Naked Genesis 2.25–3.8)

CottonGenesisFragment03rGodAdamEve
CottonGenesisFragment03rGodAdamEve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have just had a vision of Adam’s vision of his Other Half. Now, we are ready to shift into another story.

Genesis 2.25 is the beginning of the passage. This week, we will pick up here and discuss it up until the moment they take the bite out of the “apple.”

As a reminder, try to forget the stories you’ve heard and read the text (Genesis 2.25—3.8) for yourself. Read it slowly, in at least two different translations (Genesis 2.25—3.8NIV). This may help to break up what you know from what you read.

Naked. It’s a term that makes some of us cringe, some of us laugh, and some of us…ashamed. But why? We have this innate sense that nakedness is something to be ashamed of. After all, this story does sorta suggest that, right? But, what if this is a word play? What if nakedness is a metaphor for something else?

Disclaimer. I am not suggesting everyone get naked and carry on daily business. I’m just saying our attitudes about nakedness, skin, flesh, sex, etc… may be due in large part to simply not reading Scripture correctly.

What is the central tree we have to avoid? It is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As I have discussed before, this tree is more than a false dichotomy of right and wrong. It represents the all-in-all of what it means to know, to have wisdom, about everything from good to evil. In this small passage, we are told that this tree would give to the humans the knowledge of all that good-to-evil, making them divine (Genesis 3.5). This wisdom (Genesis 3.6) is what the tree represented. It was not about sin, but about knowing what God knew.

Think of what is the first characteristic “divinity” is given in Scripture. Wisdom. In later uses, Wisdom is personified as an attribute of God (usually female, Proverbs 8; Sirach 24). Even Job has Wisdom featured somewhat as an anthropomorphized image of God. What is this wisdom?

In the Ancient Near East, the serpent represented… life, death, wisdom, and fertility (among other things). Christians have sense given the serpent the title of “Satan.” But, remove that for a moment. In Gilgamesh, a serpent is present to cheat someone out of immorality. Think about how a serpent that cultures would have recognized as meaning “life, death, wisdom, and fertility” brings this story to life.

This brings us back to the nakedness. In Genesis 2.25, the couple is said to be naked (arummim). In Genesis 1, we are introduced to the serpent who is said to be “shrewd” (arum). This wordplay is important, I think.

From the NET Bible (Genesis 2.25–3.8NET):

  • The Hebrew word עָרוּם (’arum) basically means “clever.” This idea then polarizes into the nuances “cunning” (in a negative sense, see Job 5:12; 15:5), and “prudent” in a positive sense (Prov 12:16, 23; 13:16; 14:8, 15, 18; 22:3; 27:12). This same polarization of meaning can be detected in related words derived from the same root (see Exod 21:14; Josh 9:4; 1 Sam 23:22; Job 5:13; Ps 83:3). The negative nuance obviously applies in Gen 3, where the snake attempts to talk the woman into disobeying God by using half-truths and lies.
  • There is a wordplay in Hebrew between the words “naked” (עֲרוּמִּים, ’arummim) in 2:25 and “shrewd” (עָרוּם, ’arum) in 3:1. The point seems to be that the integrity of the man and the woman is the focus of the serpent’s craftiness. At the beginning they are naked and he is shrewd; afterward, they will be covered and he will be cursed.

What does “naked” mean? Some believe it is a word play, with one nakedness highlighted above another’s nakedness. The Targum Jonathan (c. 3rd century) translates Genesis 2.25 like this: “And they were both wise, the man and his wife, but they did not remain in their glory.” Thus, Genesis. 2.25 becomes something like a heading.

Maybe.

But, what we have then is that the serpent is made more crafty than the humans. Or, if we take these words as metaphors, then we see a fear of vulnerability in which case, the serpent (more naked) must work to trick the unsuspecting duo into eating the fruit because it is jealous.

There are a lot of “ifs” about these puns.

Let’s connected “nakedness” to wisdom. What happens when they become wise? Then they realize their nakedness and then work to cover it up.

If Genesis 2.25 is not a heading, but a statement of reality, then why does nakedness bring shame after they eat the fruit? Is this really a lesson about sexual temptation?

But, is there more?

This is a foundational story, especially for Christians. We have a lot of theology based on “the original sin.” But, what if the totality of the story is simply to ask the question, “What happens when humans get their hands on the knowledge of good-and-evil?” Maybe this: “The story … simply says that the knowledge of good and evil, in anybody’s hands other than God’s, will bring death and suffering, that is, expulsion from Paradise.”1

Another question… where do you think Adam was during all of this? Why is Eve the only one approached?

Some of the things this story is not about?

  • Evil. Evil pre-exists
  • This is the story of the Fall, a particular important story in Christian theology.  But, does the Fall exist in Judaism?
  • If this is the story of the Fall, what does this say about God?
  1.  Cesareo Bandera, The Sacred Game, pp. 114-115

The 6th day and Noah’s Rainbow Covenant

Landscape with Noah's Thank Offering (painting...
Landscape with Noah’s Thank Offering (painting circa 1803 by Joseph Anton Koch) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Genesis 1 contains a mystery.

1.26 reads, “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'”

Who is this “we”?

The answer(s) is simple, right?

For Christians, it is the Trinity. God is speaking to the Son and the Holy Spirit, although we never see this replicated, even in the New Testament.

For some, this is simply the so-called Royal We used by people like Queen Victoria.

The ArtScroll edition of the Tanak I have makes it into a question of Moses’s recognition of monotheism.

Academics point to this, mirror it with Babylonian usages and certain passages from Psalms to suggest Elohim is speaking to the divine court (sons of God, angels, etc…). I am inclined to agree with this.

But, one Rabbinical interpretation has it that God is speaking to the animals. After all, on the fifth day the first living creatures were brought forth. These living creatures populated the waters and the air (fish and fowl). On the beginning of the sixth day, God brings forth, again, living creatures but this time, on land.

And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. (Genesis 1.24)

If Adam is a living soul (Genesis 2), then perhaps God is speaking to the living creatures — which makes the scene in the Garden (before Eve) look worse than it did before. After all, if “helper” is better translated as “correspondent” and after Adam could not correspond with any animal, God had to make an almost-man… well, you get my drift.

Anyway, fast forward to the flood, or rather, after the flood. There is a covenant made between God and Noah and Noah’s sons. Yet, that is not all. The covenant is not merely between Noan and all of his descendents, but…:

‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you,  and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. (Genesis 9.9–10)

The covenant between God and Noah is not merely with God and Noah, but included all animals. The language is similar to the original Creation accounts (Genesis 1 and Genesis 2–3).

By the way, the Noah story is actually another creation account.

So, maybe God is speaking to the animals when He says “let us…” (which, again, expands the scene in Genesis 2, doesn’t it?)

How closely are we connected to the animals (or, perhaps, the environment?)

CTP Bible Study – HaAdam, Ish and Ishah (Genesis 2.18–24)

(there are questions at the bottom if you just want to skip to that point)

Plato’s Symposium will  factor into our discussion this week – as I have warned you several times now. If this link opens up correctly, you should see a paragraph beginning with “Aristophanes professed to open another vein of discourse…” Read this and the following two paragraphs.

Why?

Because this week we are going to go deep into Adam and Eve, or Ish and Ishah.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553): Adam and ...
Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553): Adam and Eve. Beech wood, 1533. Bode-Museum, Berlin (Erworben 1830, Königliche Schlösser, Gemäldegalerie Kat. 567) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are three words in the Hebrew. We miss them because of our English translations which are primarily based on usage already common. In other words, we get Adam and Eve, or even a generic man and woman, in our English bibles because that’s what we would recognize.

Before I go on, let me add the word “can” (as a blanket statement) when I am talking about Hebrew words. For this case, I am trying to limit the range of meanings specifically for Genesis 1 and Genesis 2–3.

  • Adam means human (generic, like humanity).
  • Ish means man
  • Ishah means woman

There are several stories about the creation of the first humans in and around the Ancient Near East (ANE). Often times, they are connected to the dirt (dust, earth) like it says in Genesis 2. One even mentions the creation of the Tigris and Euphrates along with naming the animals! (Founding of Eridu).

We something like this in Genesis 2.18–24. As I have said before, however, these creation stories aren’t easily straight forward. Rather, they are telling you something by challenging something.

Genesis 2.18–24 is different than the creation of HaAdam in Genesis 1.26–27. In Genesis 1.26–27 we have humanity created together and assigned the image of God. This is very important to us, even if we do not always understand the concept. In Genesis 2.18–24, a man is created and then after searching for the lock to his key, a woman is created. No mention of the image of God is made.

The image of God is ANE for “king.” Again, I’m making a generalization here. But, kings were the image of God, in a literal sense. Think of Pharaohs. They were gods on earth, or representatives of gods on earth.

There are different levels of looking at this story. One, we get to examine Genesis 1.26-27 as representing all of humanity while suggesting Genesis 2.18–24 is more representative of a group of people, perhaps Israel.

  • What if Adam and Eve represent some sense of a historical king or leader God spoke to in order to give His covenant?

We also can look at the story in Genesis 2.18–24 as archetypical of pairings. Some may call this “soulmate” (although we should be hesitant about thinking in terms of romantic love). And this is where Plato comes in.

I’m not saying, for sure, “Moses” and Plato sang from the same hymn book, only that these stories look a lot alike and following Christian tradition, I feel like we can use Plato.

Notice the similarities in action. Something has to be done (a need recognized by the divine). There is an operation (by the divine). There is a putting back together (by the divine). There is the taking of the “side” (or rib).

For Plato it is side. For us, because we want to see it as such, we say rib. But actually, the wording leads us to say side. As in, side like Plato.

The textual notes from the NET bible read,

  • Traditionally translated “rib,” the Hebrew word actually means “side.” The Hebrew text reads, “and he took one from his sides,” which could be rendered “part of his sides.” That idea may fit better the explanation by the man that the woman is his flesh and bone.
  •  Heb “closed up the flesh under it.”
  • The Hebrew verb is בָּנָה (banah, “to make, to build, to construct”). The text states that the Lord God built the rib into a woman. Again, the passage gives no indication of precisely how this was done.

So, what do we do with this information?

Often times, we see this passage used as a way to say women are second to men in the church and home (creation order). Other times, we see it related to debates about sexuality (Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!). So, what happens if this passage is meant to represent something more, sometime idyllic?

  • If helper/help mate is not really what is intended here, but more like “other half” (or correspondent), how does that transform debates on complementarianism?
  • If the “other half” is decided from above and pre-exists our earthly life, what does this mean in terms of sexuality?
  • What does it mean to have the image of God applied to all of the human race?