Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Genesis 2:4-3:24

I'm on a path to read a chapter of Genesis a day. Here is the third day, covering Genesis 2:4-3:24. I'm trying out the CEB for a fresh look.

Genesis 2:4-3:24
  • Adam and Eve: This is the Adam and Eve story, although the CEB uses "human" for Adam to highlight the fact that 'adam in Hebrew can simply mean a human (אָדָם). 
  • Section start: I'm going with those translations that start the next section of Genesis at 2:4 with the phrase, "These are the generations of the skies and the land in their creating, on the day of the LORD God making land and skies" (my translation).
  • LORD God: Note the shift to "LORD God" here (יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים) from just "God" in Genesis 1 (אֱלֹהִים). This general way of referring to God will continue through chapter 4.
  • Second creation story: Genesis 2-3 are often thought of as a second creation story. If Genesis 1 has six days of creation, Genesis 2 happens on the "day" of creating. 
  • Order: In this poetic version of the creation, the man is made first, then plants and trees, then animals, then finally the woman. We should assume that the presentation in Genesis 1 is similarly poetic in nature.
  • Soul in Hebrew: Notice the way a human being is conceptualized in an Israelite worldview in 2:7. God takes dust (body). God breathes into the dust (spirit, breath, רוּחַ), and the human becomes a living soul (נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּֽה). "Soul" in Hebrew is not a detachable part of a person like in Greek but a whole living being, both body and breath. Thus in Genesis 1, the living beings in the waters are "living souls" too (e.g., 1:20).
  • Tree of Life: Adam and Eve are not created immortal. It is only by eating from the Tree of Life that they might live forever. In that sense, Genesis presents them as created to die naturally.
  • Tree of Knowledge: Ironically, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil does not itself bring knowledge of good and evil. Rather, by choosing to eat from it, you come to know evil because you have thereby made an evil decision in your heart.
  • Helper: Eve is to be Adam's helper in 2:18. This doesn't put woman below man, since God is our helper
  • Marriage: 2:24 is the classical text on marriage that Jesus himself quotes. Men and women pair up and start new families. Note that no shame attaches to nakedness at this point. Soon it will not be that way.
  • Snake: Genesis never uses the name "Satan," nor does it call the snake Satan. The first known Jewish writing to equate the two is the Life of Adam and Eve, from the first century BC. It is a significant growth point to realize 1) that we and the NT authors often see more in the OT than the original audiences did and 2) that this is ok. 
  • Death: Adam and Eve don't die on the 24 hour day they eat the fruit, but the "day" of humanity's death begins. They are thrust out of the Garden. They cannot eat from the Tree of Life, so now they do not have the extra power of the Tree to live forever. They will now eventually die.
  • Original meaning: The Adam and Eve story originally expressed several features of human life. It gave the pattern of husband and wife pairing up. It expressed why snakes do not have legs and are a natural enemy of people. It expressed why women have painful childbirths and are subject to their husbands. It expressed why men have to work so hard to get the soil to yield fruit.
  • Christian meaning: For Paul in the NT, the Adam and Eve story explains the origins of sin (word not used in Genesis) and death. Because of Adam's sin, the power of Sin reigns on the earth. Because of Adam's sin, the creation is subject to decay.
  • Augustine's meaning: We get the idea of "the Fall" (word not used in the Bible) from Augustine in the 400s. To him, humanity became "totally depraved" after Adam's sin, with no good in us whatsoever (Paul does not say this). For him, the original sin was sexual desire and lust. The idea of a sin nature in us from the Fall comes from Augustine. For Paul, we sin because of the cosmic power of Sin over our weak flesh. Augustine thought that we sinned "in Adam" but Paul only thinks that we sin like Adam.
  • Other NT readings: 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is a difficult passage, because it seems to perpetuate the subjugation of Eve even though Christ has atoned for the sin of Adam. It should be put in the "unclear" verse category. Romans 16:20 also alludes to Genesis 3:15. Later Christians would take this as a prophecy of Christ crushing Satan, although the Bible itself never interprets the verse in this way.
Previous notes:
Genesis 1:1-2:3

Next planned post--Friday with Genesis 4-5.


MDLeamon said...

Insightful. Thank you. Especially appreciate notes on "soul" and original sin.

Pastor Bob said...

Thanks, this causes me to ponder.
"for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." ASV... I was always mindful of Adam's possibility of death, but only if and when he disobeyed. Until that transpired it appeared to me that in his original state he and Eve were immortal. Never thought of them being created outside of the image (of God) or immortality, thinking that God's image is immortal. So it seems to me the original intent for man was (holy) immortality.

Martin LaBar said...

So Augustine is responsible for the idea of the Fall. Thanks.