After reflecting on this project yesterday I started to realize what an immense undertaking it is. I realized that at this rate, it’s going to be approximately 2 ½ YEARS before I get to the New Testament! I’m probably going to read ahead….
I wish I had this other book in front of me right now. It’s called Contagious by Jonah Berger and it’s about how ideas catch on. I have it on audiobook and I just listened to this big part about how humans love narratives, and specifically how the lessons related to the fall of Troy (“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” or beware when your enemy seems friendly) would have had less of an impact had they not come within a story!
In the book Hannibal and Me by Andreas Kluth, he tells of Mahatma Gandhi’s interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita. This holy book tells a story about a grand war, and Gandhi is a pacifist. His interpretation is that the narrative describes a spiritual battle and the spiritual challenges that mankind faces, but by framing it as an actual war, it makes the lessons more interesting and exciting. A story gives us names of people, places, and things that we can actually care about. By attaching emotion to the story, the lessons are better understood, and stand out more vividly in our minds.
So, in front of me, I have a book that accounts for creation and also teaches lessons. It happens to be a narrative, not a textbook. Interpret that as you will, but it seems like the good Lord knows what He’s doing.
(Oh Lord, this is such a long book…)
Let’s take this one from the top. So first we get the 7th day. The entire universe is done, finito. And so the Lord rests. So God in short blesses his weekend and sanctifies it. Seems fair! Even the Lord should get to kick back once in a while.
But now we get to the fun stuff, starting with Genesis 2:4, we have what skepticsannotatedbible.com calls the second contradictory account of creation. A difference here between NKJV and NIV is that NKJV says that this history is “in the day (emphasis added) that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” NIV omits the bit about “in the day.”
So here we have an instance where the word day probably doesn’t mean an actual day. Because the “day” that God made the heavens and earth was Day 1, according to Genesis 1. And not much else happened that “day”! Well, the light thing, but you get it. So again, here we have a piece of evidence that would seem to support the JW assertion that unless otherwise specified, a “day” in the Bible does not necessarily have to refer to a 24-hour period. I haven’t read the whole Bible yet, but this might come up later.
Genesis 2:5 says that this is before there were plants, there was not yet rain and there was “no one to till [work NIV] the ground.” But, Genesis 2:6, either a “mist” (NKJV) or “streams” (NIV) came up and “watered the whole face of the ground.”
We’re already up to Genesis 1:10 as far as the original account goes. We have land separate from the water. And now… Genesis 1 says the next step is plants. But Genesis 2:7…
I have to stop quoting every verse or I’m never going to get this done. Here’s the deal: God creates man from the dust and breathes life into his nostrils. Tada! Man is alive. Sounds like God had to turn on the brain!
In the next few verses, Genesis 2:8-15, God creates a garden (Eden) and puts the man in it. The garden has the famed tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The Bible also describes the “location” of the garden indirectly by explaining the rivers that come from it. Two of these are the Hiddekel (or Tigris, according to the NKJV), and the Euphrates.
Now if you’ve sat through any world history class, these will be familiar to you. The present area near these rivers is unfortunately a desert!
I really wish to launch into a great big rant about Göbekli Tepe, a site in present-day Turkey that appears to be the world’s oldest human construction… but I do not have time. I’ll give a quick and dirty description and provide links at some point so anyone interested can do review the research and literature on their own.
Long story short, Göbekli Tepe is a site constructed somewhere around 11,000 years ago. This is before humans had discovered agriculture (Hey hey, man is created before the garden! Genesis 2:7-8). There are stone monoliths and carvings of animals that are as detailed as cave paintings if not more so. The level of organization and craftsmanship involved baffled archaeologists. One person said that it was like “finding that someone had built a 747 in a basement with an X-Acto knife” (National Geographic).
The marvel of it is that it suggests that people came together for a religious or spiritual purpose and then, once they got together, they had to figure out how to cultivate food to support such a large population! There are domesticated cereal grains found not far from the site, and they appear to be the earliest known. The thinking once was that growing crops was what spurred settlements and buildings, but it could be the other way around.
Anyway, I like to think personally that this site or those like it, because there are many rings of these stones, is what the Eden story is about. I’ll elaborate on this tomorrow in Genesis 3.
Fruits, Animals, and Woman
Starting back up at Genesis 2:16-17, we have God letting man know not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Can we get any more prepositions? It does have a good rhythm if you say it fast, though.
God tells Adam, who is at this point unnamed, that he will die if he eats of the tree. He can eat everything else, though! Oddly enough, God does not mention the tree of life, which seems to be a much bigger deal. (Come back tomorrow, true believers!)
Anyway, God sees that man should not be alone, “It is not good,” so sayeth the Lord. I actually read a blog once where a guy used this verse, Genesis 2:18, as a defense of gay marriage, because God never intended for his children to be alone in the world without a companion, but that is a big can of gay worms that I am not prepared to open. We haven’t even gotten to Leviticus!
Now God begins to create the animals. “Out of the ground,” God makes all the beasts and birds, and apparently the fish just show up at some point because Genesis 2 makes no mention of them. Then God brings them to Adam, who now in Genesis 2:19, has a name (NKJV). Adam is given the opportunity to name all the animals and birds and beasts and what have you. I had a friend in high school that said that “The oldest profession is not prostitution, but taxonomy.” Clever.
So Adam has all these animal friends, but nothing comparable to him. So God knocks him out (“cause[s] a deep sleep,” whatever), takes a rib, and genetically engineers a woman from the current tissue. God warps a Y chromosome into an X chromosome and tada! We have a woman. She won’t get her name til tomorrow.
Adam gives her a name too, in the general sense, and dubs her “Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Now, one verse after that we have Genesis 2:24, that says:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Remember what I said earlier about narratives? Here is the lesson to be learned from this story, it would seem. Adam and his as-yet-unnamed wife are “of one flesh,” literally in this case but metaphorically in the case of marriage. Unless “becom[ing] of one flesh” is a double entendre….
Which, holy $#!& it might be, actually! In the book Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk, he has this whole part of the story that describes how sex is what separates us from our parents. When we grow up and can have sex, that’s what makes us true adults. We are no longer the child, but we are the ones who can now be parents.
In the Eden story, Man leaves his “father,” God, and his “mother,” the earth that bore him? And he leaves them to become his own man and take a wife. Oh man, I hope that’s a sex reference.
But, it would seem that they are thus far innocent. Adam has not yet “known” his wife, and they don’t seem to care about their nakedness. In this garden of Eden, man and woman are free, innocent, alive, and happy. I think we all know what happens next.
Peace be upon you.