Susquehanna Morning

Susquehanna Morning

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Lent 2: Another Creation Story. Still Not Eve.

"Creation of Eve" (circa 1310-1330 CE), Marble Relief by Lorenzo Maitani Orvieto Cathedral, Italy

Following the completion of the great creation liturgy with day 7, the day of God's rest from creating, another creation story is offered. (The New Revised Standard Version actually captions it so: "Another Creation Story.") This one focuses on the garden, and the rivers, an describes, not a creation by the Word of God, but a God who plays in the mud (the dust/ the earth), breathes into the nostrils of this creation, and creates a "living soul" (KJV), or "living being." Though our English translation calls this creation "a man," the Hebrew calls it "the human," really, "the earthling" ("adama" is the earth; "ha-adam" is the "earthling"). Not too long after this, the King James Version starts using the proper name "Adam." Newer translations correct that premature usage.

Finally, we come to the creation of woman as most remember it from the Bible. Despite the fact that it is the second story ("another story"), for reasons that quickly become obvious, it has claimed the spotlight in the minds, certainly, of most Christians.

God places the human in the garden to "till and keep" it. (Another nice translation of the Hebrew is "serve and defend"). It is at this point that God gives the human the following commandment: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

Please note: in this "other" creation story, the woman has not yet been created.
Shortly thereafter, God states, "“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”

The idea of woman as helper, or "helpmeet," has been the source of all kinds of moral mischief throughout the millennia. Here's my favorite fact about the word "helper' ("ezer" in Hebrew). It appears something like 18 times in the Hebrew scriptures. Most frequently, this word refers to God.

So, let's set aside the notion that a "helper" is automatically a person of lesser, subsidiary status, someone whose being is only relevant with regard to a superior who is being helped.

"But surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life!" ~ Psalm 54:4

God creates and parades many animals in front of the man, who pretty much says, "Nah." So God  performs a minor surgical procedure on the human, removing a rib, and from it, fashioning what becomes "a woman." 

I'd like to say a word, now, about ribs. Ribs are a part of the human respiratory system. They enclose the lungs and the entire chest cavity, including the heart. You might say, ribs guard and protect the heart and the vital apparatus for life, for breath. A rib is a part of a whole that is complexly designed. A rib is a marvelous and important thing.

Next comes what is probably the earliest example of "up is down," "left is right," "day is night" recorded anywhere. The human, now differentiated as a male from the female who has been created from his rib, speaks appreciative poetry about the newly created female.

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
    for out of Man this one was taken.”   ~ Genesis 2:23

I love this. Because, of course, in the usual course of things, men (baby boys) come out of women

This other creation story concludes with two verses. First, the verse that has regularly been hurled like a stone from a sling at gay people, as evidence that they are not right:

 "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh." 

To which I reply: God gave the human (male) the full dignity of choosing his helper/ partner. The human/ male could have said "no" to the woman, just as he said "no" to the animals. The human/ male got to choose the living being who would become his partner. 

And so do we. 

And the second verse, setting up part three of our story nicely: 

"And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed."

Not yet, anyway.