Monday, August 15, 2005

God formed man (Gen 2:4-14)

A lot of the objections that are raised in the SAB in chapter two are repeats of the ones raised in chapter one, this is because they're largely concerning the supposed discrepancies between the two accounts of the creation of mankind. My progress has been slow enough already; I trust that nobody bothering to read this will mind if I don't bother with a second response, but rather move on to new material.

So, from 2:5 until the end of the chapter, the story is about the creation of mankind. I don't know which part 2:4 goes with; it could be the epilogue of the previous account, or the introduction of this account. I think it doesn't really matter. One thing that should be noted however is that 2:4 says, "in the day". This phrase is one of a handful that's poetic/figurative/whatever that I hope people won't misconstrue, and I'm glad to see that the SAB doesn't make that mistake here, at least. Often, "day" refers not to a specific 24 hour period, but a general timeframe, like when someone says, "You'll rue the day you crossed me!" They're not saying that there's a specific date on the calendar that you'll mark down and say, "Wow, that was a bad one!" but rather you'll remember the time that you did whatever you did, whether it be a single moment, or even a series of events that stretched across several years. Other words that have a common figurative meaning are "name" which often means character or reputation, and "world" which can mean humanity as a whole, the social system you are a part of, or even perhaps an era of time. Context will often tell you, but I won't pretend it isn't confusing at times.

In verse five, it says there is no "plant of the field" because there is rain and (essentially) agriculture missing from the picture. Aside from the thoughts I gave on this before, it might be noteworthy to think about the implications of there needing to be "a man to till the ground" and that this is referring to plants "of the field". Perhaps what this is saying is that there are specifically no plants like wheat and barley and other grains growing in a useful fashion. I don't know, but it seems like a possibility.

Note also in verse six that it still doesn't "rain", but instead a "mist from the earth" waters the ground. That's interesting. If you remember my goofiness about water canopy theory, I think it's interesting to ponder that perhaps it never had rained before Noah's day. That's pure speculation on my part, I admit however. That might make no sense in other ways I'm not even thinking of.

God makes the first man out of the dust. I've heard it pointed out by some theologians that everything that makes up a human body can be found in dirt. Interesting, but not really conclusive from a creation/evolution standpoint, since one would expect a creature evolving naturally by chance from its environment to take on characteristics that were consistent with its environment, if you follow me. In other words, if the earth were completely free from silicon, you'd hardly expect creatures made largely from silicon to have evolved, would you? That's another tangent, though.

After creating man, God breathes into him, making him a "living soul". I think there's meant to be a special implication here, that more than breathing air, we're somehow figuratively breathing the spirit of God. It's interesting that in Hebrew, Greek and English, the words for these concepts are closely related. ("spirit" vs. "respiration")

Then God plants a garden with everything the man needs to physically survive, including two special trees: "the tree of life" and "the tree of knowledge of good and evil." We don't hear much about either of these trees, although the "tree of life" pops up again in the Book of Revelation, chapter 22, where it grows on both sides of a river in New Jerusalem. This is interesting to me, because it shows once again the problem with taking things too literal. I once read a Christian commentary on the book of Revelation that mused, "What sort of strange tree will this be? Will it have a trunk that splits in two so it's on both sides of the river at once?" It seems obvious to me that in that passage, the "tree of life" is not a singular tree, but a kind of tree, and there will be several of that kind of tree along both banks. Does that mean that the "tree of life" in this chapter is not a specific tree, but a species, which may have had several instances in the garden? I don't know, but it's entirely a possibility.

Of course the tree we're really interested in so often is the other special tree (trees?), the one that causes all the trouble in the next chapter. Why would God put such a dangerous tree right next to his special beloved children and let them eat from it if it was so dangerous? It's a very good question, perhaps one of the best. I'm going to give it an entire post tomorrow.

The only thing left to comment on here is all the geographical information in verses 10-14. Strangely, this is a mix of places and names that are known today and not known today. What are we supposed to make of them? I think most likely, these geographical names are of very little consequence to us today. I suspect strongly that whatever they referred to no longer exists. The fact that some of the names are still used today is simply either a holdover from those times (Noah and his family named some places after the places that used to be there before the flood), or modern people labeling places with names they got out of the Bible. Either way, it doesn't matter much.

2 comments:

Steve Wells said...

Were plants created before or after humans?

Brucker said...

Before.