Theological Insights from a Modern Perspective

Second Creation Narrative

Temptation and Expulsion from Eden (Courtesy, Orthodox Wiki)

Beginning in Chapter 2:4 there seems to be a second creation story, apparently contradicting some of the first narrative accounts. I disagree with this idea. I think what we have here is not a tale of creation, rather it is the establishment of the first Covenant, between God and Adam. I believe it is also a result of Abram’s stay in Egypt, and was, partially, to counteract the impact of Egyptian theology on Abram’s people, so early into their new religion. Before we get started I would like to point out here something that gets people all twisted up on the creation stories – no where does it state that Adam was the only man God created. In the first narrative man is referred to as “ἄνθρωπον” (anthropon), or simply “man”. In the second narrative we see an article added in front of ἄνθρωπον, “τὸν” (ton) which is “the”, hence we have “τὸν ἄνθρωπον” or “the man” – a particular man: Adam. Looking into the second narrative we see that its purpose is to address: the creation of Adam, Eve, and Eden; the establishment of the Covenant between God and Adam; and Adam’s subsequent breaking of the Covenant. Adam was created to represent all of humanity and to see if man was worthy of the gifts God had given to Adam. When he is found unworthy he and Eve are ejected from Eden to join the rest of humanity (as we see from the story of Cain and Abel).

Courtesy Egyptian Tour Info

Egyptian’s gods *1 took on many forms, some human, others animals and, unlike the Semitic gods of Abram’s past, there existed no hierarchy, or even common names. The creator god was called Re, Amun, Ptah, Khnum, or Aten, depending on locality and the current king. Amaunet was one of the primordial gods, a female counterpart to Amon-Re. Antaios (male) was symbolized as a falcon, while Anuket (female) was the gazelle. Exposure to this culture and their gods was the probable reason for the next passage in Abram’s conversation with God, God reminds Abram that it was he who created everything – the earth and the heavens, and every living thing (flora and fauna). There was no one else involved in the act of creation. This also contradicts the Sumerian creation tale where different gods were responsible for different parts of creation, and man was little more than a domesticated animal to do the work for the gods. Next, we hears how God delivered all of the animals to Adam for him to name – names had power in the crescent cultures *2, knowing the name of a being was believed to give you power over it. You could control it by uttering its’ name; writing the name on pottery, then crushing the pottery, was believed to kill its’ power. By allowing Adam to name the animals (a hidden name that was lost to us after the fall) *3, God was telling Abram that man was superior to the animals, that animals were not powerful gods, and that God gave man authority over the animals *4. Now, authority is a two-edged sword, on the one hand it means that man can use the animals for his benefit be it as a partner (dogs and cats) or to help with the work (horse and oxen). However, it does not mean that man can mistreat or hunt an animal to extinction. It does mean that animals are subservient to man, and that man’s needs come before those of the animals. It is a tenuous authority at best.

It is at this point that God makes his Covenant with Adam. It’s important to note that all throughout the Bible God chooses one person through whom to make his Covenant – Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Peter – these are the caretakers of their respective Covenants. The Covenant with Adam is the first, and the only one made with un-fallen man, all of the Covenants after Adam will be made with fallen man. God tells Adam that in exchange for immortality *5 Adam only needs to abstain from eating from the “tree of knowledge of good and evil”, for if he does eat from this tree then he will “surely know death.” This part of the passage is important, ἀποθανεῖσθε (know death) is a future tense, meaning that Adam will know death, not that he will die the moment he eats the fruit. This implies, as Sarov points out, that prior to this death was not planned as part of Adam’s existence, it is not until after Adam breaks the Covenant that death becomes part of man’s essence.

Something else to pay attention to: Eve is not here during the creation of the Covenant, only Adam. In fact, from the passages it may be deduced that Eve was not an intrinsic part of the Covenant since she was not created until all other forms of companionship had proven inadequate for Adam. Now, I am not claiming that God did not have Eve in his plans, or that she did not have a part in the breaking of the Covenant; I believe that God knew Adam would not fully appreciate Eve until he had exhausted all other possibilities. It was at this point that Adam understood his true mate could only be another creature who was like himself. However, from the text it is clear that the Covenant was made before the creation of Eve and, as such, I believe that this Covenant could only be fully broken by Adam. But, I am getting ahead of myself, more on this in The First Sin.

It wasn’t only the gods which were different in Egypt, Egypt also differed in how women were viewed and treated. *6 In the Semitic culture that Abram left women could not own or inherit property; the murder of a son required equal sacrifice from the murder, while a daughter was treated as a financial loss to be compensated; in the case of the death of the husband the son inherited the property, the wife was to be cared for by the son, if no son existed then the property passed to the husband’s male siblings or parent, the wife passed along with it; a man could divorce his wife simply by saying so and returning the dowry, if the wife wanted out she had to prove she had no fault (adultery) to regain her dowry. In Egyptian culture women not only could own property, but they could engage in contracts, borrow money, divorce, bear witness, and (under some circumstances) become Pharaoh. This was very different to Abram, and would no doubt have lead to many questions of God on the true nature of the relationship between men and women. It is here that God narrates the formation of woman from the side of the man; the imagery is plain: the woman is no different from the man, she is made of the same material in every way, not formed out of different clay, not made of lesser material, but made of exactly the same material as Adam, and made by God, not the result of some lesser deity.

 

*1 Tour Egypt

*2 Ancient Egypt Online

*3 Seraphim of Sarov, Conversation with Motovilov

*4 Genesis 1:28

*5 Seraphim of Sarov, Conversation with Motovilov

*6 Women in the Ancient World

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