Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint
Today’s Passage: Genesis 2
Man, writing this entry has been like pulling teeth. It’s been like going to the dentist and finding out you’re the dentist. Is every chapter of Genesis going to be like this? Is it going to be grappling every time with just what the text intends to communicate and how to talk about that to all of you, with your manifold perspectives on it? Am I going to spend each post on the mat, with uncertainty and self-consciousness putting me in a headlock? Well, so far we’re two for two, so let’s get back into the creation myth.
And it is a myth. Maybe I should say it’s two myths, or a myth in two accounts. Let’s hit up the Oxford English Dictionary for the relevant definition: “A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.” As you can see, there’s nothing about a myth that makes it necessarily false, though the term is employed in a pejorative sense by those who also use the expressions “sheeple” and “Invisible Sky Dad.” But even if a myth is true, the question remains: in what sense is it true? Most myths intend to convey some significant human truth, often ethical or metaphysical. Some myths might also turn out to be historically true. And myths such as the stories of King Arthur or Beowulf probably have some basis in history, even if legendary accretion introduced a fey sorceress or a murderous freakshow descendant of Cain and his evil monster-mom. But what kind of myth are we looking at in Genesis 1 and 2?
As I suggested before, we’re looking at a bipartite myth. We saw God create the first humans in Genesis 1, but today we see him create the first man (v.7) and then remove the first man’s rib to make the first woman (v.22). So unless God made one Adam and Even, then made a second Adam and Eve and allowed the first pair to wander their way out of the narrative, we are looking at two different stories: two different perspectives on the same event of creation. But are they contradictory perspectives? Of course the aforementioned snarking skeptics tend to think so. But you might be surprised that even some Christians would assert that the two accounts conflict.
A friend of mine from college, who is now a pastor, recently posted one of her sermons on Genesis 2 on her blog. Go read it! It’s an excellent sermon! It’s so excellent that it’s part of the reason this post has proven so dang hard to write! One of her minor points is that the narratives butt heads on certain details, and moreover that the ancient folks behind collecting these accounts in writing knew it. Fun fact: I nearly spent this post crafting a rebuttal to that point. I’m still inclined to look at the second account as hitting the rewind button and saying, “Okay, now let’s look at the creation of humanity from this other angle, break down the play like a couple of sportscasters, and zoom in on a few crucial details.” But there are one or two details that don’t easily jibe with the prior account, not without some tough exegetical work. And more importantly, I think that to get fixated on that one tree would be to miss the forest.
So here’s a characterization of the forest that I think my pastor friend would readily agree with. One prominent theme in these myths, one truth they mean to convey, is that God loves human beings. He gives them his image: makes them as individualized depictions of so many of his greatest attributes. He creates a world for them to enjoy and administrate. He accommodates them. He lets them name stuff. And he foresees the first one’s need for more beings like himself, he gets right on it and makes a second one–one with whom the first one can make even more of these human things.
In short, both accounts work together to convey this point: God is a humanist. He wouldn’t have invented humans if he wasn’t.