Monday, April 11, 2011

The Pentateuch, Day 5: Creation of Man

A modern icon of the Creation of Man (Russian Orthodox)

The Creation of Adam and Eve
We could spend weeks, months, even years on the first chapter of Genesis, but we have decided that this is an "overview" and so we must move forward.  Before we discuss the account of the creation of man, let's take a moment to put man's creation in its ordered place within the entire breadth of God's works.

One way to think about God's work of creation is to divide it into three stages.  Initially,  God creates formless matter in a formless void.  Then,  during the first three days, this totally formless void was partitioned in three, creating the vastness of space, the firm land of the earth, and the depths of the sea.  During the last three days, God "adorned" His creation.  First, He created the sun, moon, and stars for the heavens,  secondly, birds for the air and fish for the sea, and thirdly, animals and man for the land.

St. Thomas Aquinas
     ...three things are recorded as created, namely, the heaven, the water, and the earth; and these three received their form from the three days' work of distinction, so that heaven was formed on the first day, on the second day the water were separated, and on the third, the earth was divided into sea and dry land.  So also is it in the work of adornment:  on the first day of this work, which is the fourth of creation, are produced the lights, to adorn the heaven by their movements; on the second day, which is the fifth, birds and fishes are called into being, to make beautiful the intermediate element for they move in air and water, which are here taken as one; while on the third day, which is the sixth, animals are brought forth, to move upon the earth and adorn it.--Summa Theologica, I, Q.70, Art. I

Creation of the World, Giusto de Menabuoi
Thus, St. Thomas helps us to place man in his proper role as the climax and final adornment of all of God's natural, visible creation.  Man is, as Venerable John Paul II has said, "the crown of creation...the creature made in [God's] own image" (Dies Domini, 11).

The Image and Likeness of God
Scripture recounts two different versions of the creation of man.  We will not consider here why there might be different accounts, but it is good to notice that each account has a slightly different focus.  The first account, in Genesis 1, gives a brief statement of man's creation which highlights man's relationship to God and to the rest of the natural world.  It also focuses light on the common humanity of man and woman, revealing them to be both the same kind of being.  Unlike the surrounding cultures which thought male and female to be different and even opposed, here we see that both are fully human, both are created "in God's own image."

Guetenberg Bible
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it,  and have dominion over the birds of the air, over every living thing that moves upon the earth.--Genesis 1:27-28 

The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel
 In what way is man created in the "image and likeness" of God?  This expression highlights for us the uniqueness of man.   He is not an animal; there is a definite distinction between Adam and the animals:

Of all the visible creatures only man is "able to know and love his creator."  He is "the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake," and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God's own life.  It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity:
St. Catherine of Siena
What made you establish man in so great a dignity?  Certainly the incalculable love by which you have looked on your creature in yourself!  You are taken with love for her;  for by love indeed you created her, by love you have given her a being capable of tasting your eternal Good.--Dialogue 4, 13 "On Divine Providence" --CCC 356

Adam and Eve are created by God as a father creates his son.  We read in Genesis 5:3 this use of "image":  

Gutenberg Bible
When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.

So we see the words "image" and "likeness" here associated with the notion of sonship--Adam is God's son; his relationship to God shall be as the loving, mutually self-giving relationship of a father to his son.  Because he is the son of God, Adam is given a sort of royal dominion over creation.  Man's unique relationship to God gives him a dignity which can not be defaced and is the basis of the Church's teachings on the sanctity of human life.  

Male and Female He Created Them

Garden of Eden, Jacob de Baker
In the second account of the creation of man,  we are given much more detail about the creation of woman and the relationship of man and woman.  In this account, the inspired author uses many symbols to convey the holiness of man's original state of blessedness.  Man is given an elevated relationship with God which places him in the role of mediator between the earth and its creatures and God.  Adam is, in essence, the first High Priest of the human race.

"The setting is the garden of Eden, which represents the state of grace.  Man, who is created outside the garden, is placed there by God (2:8) to show that he is raised to a level of divine blessedness that is above his natural state (CCC 374-78).  The sacredness of this original situation is underscored by indications that Genesis imagines paradise as a primeval sanctuary.  Like the Tabernacle and Temple of later times, the garden is (1) entered from the east (3:24;  Ex. 27:13; Exek 47:1), (2) home to angelic guardians called cherubim (3:24; I Kings 6:23-28, (3) adorned with trees (2:9; Josh 24:26; 1 Kings 6:29-32), (4) the source of sacred waters (2:10; Ezek 47:1-12; Joel 3:18), and (5) the place where God dwells with his people on the earth (3:8; Lev 26:12; 2 Sam 7:6)"--Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: Genesis, p. 20

In this second account, we see not only the relationship of Adam to God and to creation, but also the relationship of Eve, mother of all living, to Adam:

Gutenberg Bible
Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." ...So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said,
     "This at last is bone of my bones,
          and flesh of my flesh;
       she shall be called Woman,
          because she was taken out of Man."
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.--Genesis 2:18, 21-25

 In this account, we have the foundations of the sacrament of marriage. Next lesson will discuss in more depth the sacrament of matrimony and the holy Truths it images, but perhaps this week we might just read this wonderful quote by Venerable John Paul II:

By reflecting on the whole account found in Gen 2:18-25, and by interpreting it in light of the truth about the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27), we can understand even more fully what constitutes the personal character of the human being, thanks to which both man and woman are like God. For every individual is made in the image of God, insofar as he or she is a rational and free creature capable of knowing God and loving him. Moreover, we read that man cannot exist "alone" (cf. Gen 2:18); he can exist only as a "unity of the two", and therefore in relation to another human person. It is a question here of a mutual relationship: man to woman and woman to man. Being a person in the image and likeness of God thus also involves existing in a relationship, in relation to the other "I". This is a prelude to the definitive self-revelation of the Triune God: a living unity in the communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.--Mulieris Dignitatem, 7

What We Must Believe

The Church teaches several important points with regard to this account of the creation of man.  These are the dogmas we must hold to be true:

1. Human beings are a special creation of God; God breathed a human soul into Adam.

The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual.  The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that "then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." (Gen. 2:7)  Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.--CCC 362

2.  Woman is formed from the body of man; from his very self.

[Among the fundamental Christian teachings which must be believed by Catholics are]...the creation of all things which was accomplished by God at the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from man; the unity of the human race; the original happiness of our first parents in a state of justice, integrity, and immortality... Pontifical Biblical Commission, 1909, emphasis added.
3.  All humanity is descended from Adam and Eve (there are not multiple progenitors of the human race).

Pope Pius XII
For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own--Humani Generis 37 

Pope Benedict XVI
The unity of the whole human race becomes immediately apparent...We are all one humanity, formed from God's one earth.  It is precisely this thought that is at the very heart of the creation account and of the whole Bible.  In the face of all human division and human arrogance, whereby one person sets himself or herself over and against another, humanity is declared to be one creation of God from his one earth....The Bible says a decisive "no" to all racism and every human division.--In the Beginning, p. 43-44.
4.  Adam and Eve were created without sin.

The first man was not only created good, but was also established in friendship with his Creator and in harmony with himself and with the creation around him, in a state that would be surpassed ony by the glory of the new creation in Christ. The Church...teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original "state of holiness and justice."  This grace of original holiness was "to share in ...divine life."--CCC 374-375

(Source of these dogmas:  Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ludwig Ott)

Main lesson:  God created man and woman in a state of original innocence as bearers of His image and likeness to enter into relationship with Him.

Your Assignment

1.  Read Ephesians 5:21-33.  In what ways does marriage symbolize the relationship of Christ to His Church?
2.  Why is marriage considered a covenant?  What is a covenant?
3.  Reading John Paul II's words above, how do you think marriage represents the Blessed Trinity?  In what ways are marriage and the union of the Three Divine Persons analogous?

Next lesson:  The Sacrament of Marriage 

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