I don’t have any particular aim or question I want to answer this morning, but I just feel drawn to the stories of Adam and Eve for some reason. So, here are some thoughts as they occur to me this morning.
From Genesis 1:24-26:
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
“Let the earth bring forth” — what an interesting thing to say! Why is the earth doing the action here? And why is God “letting” it do this? Is the earth naturally want to do this? Some have said evolution is obviously true, some say it’s impossible to be true with there being a God. I don’t come down on one side or the other right now — I haven’t done the reading on it, on the one hand, in order to have much to say about it, but on the other hand, as a Mormon I come from a tradition that sees God using laws of science to perform miracles, etc., so there isn’t any immediate, automatic reaction against evolution, either. I suppose the part that I find interesting is whether or not we can go from one species to the next — I think that is the part that worries people, and the part that I wonder if we can line up with the text of Genesis. Granted, each time scripture is given it is given to a particular people with a particular way of thinking, so, it might not much matter if we can or can not line up evolution with the scriptures. But, what I am noticing here is that the earth is the acting figure, and the idea that all life came from the earth is an idea evolution matches up with. Second, there is still a “kind” after which these animals need to be created. And then third, it also says that “God made” these animals. It sounds like the earth, and God, made these animals. Is it possible that evolution is the “natural” way of things (“let the earth do its thing”), but then God steps in and intervenes at certain points to stop evolution of a particular animal, so then from that point the animal will reproduce after its own kind? Does God stabilize what the earth does naturally? I like the idea, though I know there’s one concern of those against evolution that I still wonder about (but can’t know about): how do spirits fit into this? If animals are developing and changing, of what nature are their spirits? The main concern will be at what point do we have people spirits instead of monkey spirits, if indeed our bodies are evolved from them??
All questions I of course can’t answer. But aside from that last (huge and crucial) question, I think I like the rest of it. The earth has a work it does of producing life out of the ground, and God watches over that and intervenes so that we have the right animals he wants to have in the earth. It’s almost like there are “kinds” of animals like there are “forms” for Plato, and God is watching over the work the earth is doing until it matches up with the “kinds” he wants to have on earth and then stabilizes that species. Who knows of course, but I can see that making sense (besides the question of spirits, which I don’t see any way of working on unfortunately). So if I knew more about that, I could get rid of some ideas or theories, but since I don’t, I both can’t throw them out and can’t settle on anything. So I remain wondering and waiting for more knowledge.
I like though the last verse’s way of pointing out that while the earth brought forth animals after their own kinds, humans are made after God’s “kind.” God made us in his own image and likeness. However that happened scientifically, I think poetically it’s important to notice the difference between the earth bringing forth animals after their own, predetermined “kind,” and God creating man and woman not after their own predetermined kind, but after God’s kind.
(Quick note on “dominion” — Joe was explaining to someone recently that the Hebrew behind this word relates to the idea of “lord,” which comes from the old English “loaf warden” or person who is in charge of distributing food so everyone has enough to eat. It is an idea of being a steward over something and making sure it is taken care of appropriately.)
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
I have learned along the way that Chapter 1 of Genesis and Chapters 2-3 may have been two different versions of the story originally and whoever is editing is trying to find a way to include both versions of the story. But all the same, I’m going to ask a few questions about these verses in relation to Genesis 1.
Why is Adam made from the dust of the ground? In Genesis 1, God let the earth bring forth animals, and then God made them. But here this isn’t the earth bringing something forth, it sounds like God is using the dust that’s sitting on top to make Adam. Is it just that I think of dust as loose soil, but in Hebrew dust can mean earth generally, so there’s actually not much difference?
Also, it’s hard for me to think of something being created and manipulated and changed and prepared without life in it. How does a body grow without a spirit in it? We see the moment of death as when a spirit leaves. Is that always the case though? Obviously God’s not revealing His science here, just a story to help us sense His purposes and work.
So back to the poetic side of things. Why are some things created from the earth, or letting the earth bring them forth, while here Adam is made from dust?
Also, in the Genesis 2 version, God creates Adam and then God makes trees come out of the ground and grow there. Or, at least, the trees in the garden are created after Adam, but that doesn’t mean that the whole of creation or even of plants was done after Adam was created. Perhaps God wanted Adam to see a little bit of the work he had done before Adam was around.
A few thoughts for this morning — kids are waking up. I’ll just add a thought I had a while ago. Every thing in this story, it seems, is created from the ground except one: Eve. Eve is created from bone, but Adam and everything else is created from ground. Why? What does that signify poetically? Is it that bone is harder than dirt? And what does that say about Eve verses Adam? Was it harder to form Eve? Is Eve harder to manipulate? Do the differences in color mean anything? Dirt is varying shades of browns and reds, but bone is white? Is the location important – dirt is on the ground, and a rib bone is several feet off of the ground? Is it that Adam comes from dirt and returns to dirt, but Eve comes from life and gives herself to life? Adam tills the ground, Eve bears children? Adam gives his body to Eve and Eve gives her body to children? Is there an idea of passing on of life?
Questions, questions, questions!