– The second creation story (Gen. 2,4b-25)
The second creation story provides us with insight into the causes of the tragedy that human history – despite the promising prospects – has become from the beginning. Like the previous, it was written in a mythical way, but it also contains realistic elements. For example, the first men are situated in a specific region: in the Near East, near the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates. In this blissful place where innocence and security reigned, our ancestors experienced early happiness, which they will later remember with regret. This nostalgia, they will transmit it to their descendants.
The cosmos and the earth formed a dynamic and harmonious whole, in which everything and everyone had its function, purpose and mission. With the creativity that people had received and the possibilities that were at hand, they could experience heavenly happiness, if they behaved according to the precepts that God had placed in their nature and being. Man, as ruler of creation, received not only its usufruct, but also the responsibility for it. But for the first time, God sees something that is not good: man, his favorite creature is still alone.
In the previous story, the author had found it unnecessary to mention that all sexual animals were formed in pairs, but he had explicitly stated that man was created male and female. Nevertheless, the author of the second creation story felt it necessary to insert a separate passage in which God, for the benefit of the solitary Adam, first experiments with birds and land animals and finally formed his wife from one of his ribs. It is inconceivable that one attributes a literal meaning to this insertion, which seems to belong rather to Greek mythology, and that one should, for example, imagine Adam as a navelless hermaphrodite with a scar in the place where Eve was born by divine caesarean section. The author’s intention becomes clear when, at the end of the passage, he directly connects his message to Adam’s joyful exclamation at the sight of Eve: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh”; in other words, God expressly intended that the conjugal union of man and woman should be complete and unbreakable.
Both were naked: in their innocence, they had nothing to hide or fear from each other. They had no time to get bored: after all, the Garden of Eden had to be worked on and guarded. Was there pain? Of course, a little, but of the kind that we do not think about, as we can deduct from God’s words addressed to the woman, after the Fall: “I will increase the burdens of your pregnancy”. Was there fear (of death)? Apparently not, because if they followed God’s precepts, they would not “die.” We will try to explain this in the following.
– The Fall (Gen. 3)
In this chapter, we see our ancestors taking the fatal step: they do what is wrong in God’s eyes or, in biblical terms, they eat the fruits of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. God wanted to test their loyalty and affection, and He had left His enemy, who seeks the destruction of his creation, to subject the young couple to temptation.
One may wonder why the tempter is presented here in the form of a serpent. The appearance of someone or something is often associated with certain qualities. In the myths and minds of many tribes, peoples, and cultures, several supernatural or extra natural qualities have been and are given to the snake. The peculiarities of the snake are not only the smooth appearance and the sneaky way it moves, but also the loss and renewal of its skin again and again. There is a superstition in Africa that a snake cannot be killed before sunset and an attempt to do so, which I have personally experienced, seemed curiously to confirm this belief. She is therefore an ideal candidate to be revered as an “animal of life” and it is not surprising that she has become the symbol of medicine. In a form that thus suggests the possibility of an unlimited renewal of life, the representative of evil comes to encourage the first men to become like God themselves and to decide what is right and wrong, without them having to “die” for it. This last word is in quotation marks because the correct interpretation of it is extremely important.
What exactly is meant here? Here we are entering a domain where, with religious trepidation, we will have to put forward a few things that do not match the contemporary world of thinking, affected by rationalism. Why does St. Paul write that death came through the sin of one man? As believers, we must assume that death could have been avoided if there hadn’t been a fall. Although Adam and Eve were only time-bound creatures, God had promised them that they would not die if they remained faithful to Him, and this certainty was the guarantee of their heavenly and stress-free peace. What God meant by this becomes clear to us if we carefully read what God says when He pronounces His judgment on Adam and Eve: “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. If they had not sinned, their bodies would have remained intact, and they would never have experienced dissolution.
We can also deduce this from other biblical texts, such as the prophetic words “You will not let your Holy One see decay” (Acts 2:27 and 13:35, referring to Ps. 16:8-11). At the end of a sinless earthly existence, our ancestors would have been taken directly into their heavenly Father’s house with their spiritualized bodies. Unfortunately, we know of only four examples of people who have succeeded in this area: Enoch, Elijah, Jesus, and Mary. Moreover, we know, even in our time, a number of cases of saints whose bodies were preserved after their death.
Of course, it was not God’s intention to let an obedient humanity continue to live in the earthly paradise for eternity. Due to the obedient execution of the multiplication order, even the surface of the earth would soon turn out to be too small. We must therefore give the word “die” the same meaning that Jesus gives it with the words: “He who believes in me will live forever, even if he is dead”, or in other words “even if his body has perished, the believer is in fact only apparently dead, since he will be resurrected”.
Much has been written about the nature of the sin that the inhabitants of paradise would have committed. It will always remain guesswork to deduce this from the mythical genesis text. A plausible and realistic answer to this question could be that the metaphor used refers to the ingestion of foods that disturb the psyche, thus a “drug”. This sin affected both physical integrity and intellectual abilities, so that the work that was previously perfectly performed with satisfaction no longer went properly.
The bad behavior of the head of creation had a disruptive effect on all its natural environment. The consequences of this are still perceptible today: for example, in unrestrained forest clearing that turns ancient forests into deserts, in spillages which cause high fish mortality, etc.
The paradisiacal harmony and fertility gave way to miserable conditions, which in turn were a cause of discord between people. The knowledge of God and His will quickly collapsed, causing humans to degenerate further and further into the situation at the time of the deluge. After all, God only reveals himself to those who search with heart and soul for the Truth that can only be found in Him. On the contrary, the one who abuses his intellectual faculties in the service of the maximum satisfaction of his ego, is subject to imaginary, artificial gods, created by man and his Great Seducer. The idolatry thus created has led to countless and horrific crimes.
This process of alienation (from God and from each other), dehumanization and spiritual decline, continues to this day. But thanks to Christ’s work of redemption, another process began, in the opposite direction: that of redemption, healing, renewed respect for life…, sustained by faith in the ultimate new creation, this time forever “good.”
In the context of this discussion, we cannot elaborate further on this topic, although the subject of a correct view of the creation myths is far from exhausted. The intention was to oppose a realistic and faithful biblical vision to a simplistic creationism on the one hand and a reduced materialistic vision of the origin of humanity on the other. In the following parts, we will focus more on the scientific aspects of commonly used arguments.