Showing posts with label Meaning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Meaning. Show all posts

03 February 2013

Adam and Eve in Genesis

Adam and Eve appear in Genesis 2, but there's a different account of creation in chapter 1. Does it make sense to take the first man and woman literally? Is there some other way of reading these chapters? What is the underlying message? What is Genesis telling us?

Adam and Eve
Some believers (Jews, those who follow Jesus, and Muslims) take the early chapters of Genesis literally and therefore hold that Adam and Eve were real people, created at the same time as the world itself, the stars and planets, and other forms of life. There are, however, many others who hold that the creation stories are not intended as history but have some deeper purpose.

An overwhelming majority of scientists on the other hand see Adam and Eve as mythical figures. But sometimes we hear them speak of 'Mitochondrial Eve' and 'Y-chromosomal Adam'. What do they mean by those terms? Is there scientific evidence for a first man and a first woman?

We will try to understand the story of Adam and Eve from the beginning. We'll look at the views of faith in this post and science in a later one and we'll see if they can be reconciled in some way.

Two accounts - This is based mainly on the Hebrew writings known as the Tanakh, what Christians call the Old Testament. The main place where origins are mentioned is in the early part of the book of Genesis. There are many references to Adam and Eve elsewhere in both Old and New Testaments and those generally support what we find in Genesis.

Genesis describes the creation of the universe as known at the time of writing, it includes the origin of the stars, the sun and moon, the earth itself, all living things, and the first man and woman. This article ignores much of that and focusses solely on Adam and Eve.

There are two passages that deal with the first people, Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:7-25.

In the first account plants are created first (Genesis 1:11-13), then the Sun, Moon and stars (Genesis 1:14-19), birds and fish (Genesis 1:20-23),  land animals (Genesis 1:24-25) and finally mankind (Genesis 1:26-28). There is no mention of Adam and Eve here, instead the collective word for mankind is used, people are created but the number is unspecified.

In the second account the order is significantly different. This time Adam is created first (Genesis 2:7), then the trees (Genesis 2:8-17), then the land animals and birds (Genesis 2:19-20) and finally Eve (Genesis 2:21-22). This time there are only two people.

Since the two accounts follow different sequences it is a logical necessity that they cannot both be historically correct. Either of them might be correct, or neither, but both is not possible. Therefore the only conclusion that can be defended is that either or both of these accounts were written for some purpose other than history.

The real purpose - What might that other purpose be?

I would strongly suggest that the purpose of Genesis chapters 1 and 2 is exactly the same as that of the rest of the Bible.

  • It is to reveal something of the nature of the power behind the universe.
  • It explains our broken relationship with him.
  • And it points to the reconnection that became possible in Christ.

Genesis 1 and 2 tell us there's a creator who brought the universe into being. This creating power is not part of the universe.

Relationship, not history - The original intention was that we should have freedom of will and freedom of action to use in honouring the Creator, but instead we abused our freedom. Initially we had a close relationship with our Maker (walking together in the garden with our Father). Our significance, worth, security and identity were found in our love relationship with him. But after our revolt for independence we found ourselves... independent! And it was not a good place.

Woman now looked to man for her significance, worth, security and identity. And man looked to the ground to provide these things, through the work of his hands raising crops. This remains true today; women tend to look to a relationship, men to their own ability. That's a generalisation but it contains the essence of a deep truth.

In Christ we have the relationship restored and with it the opportunity to walk again with the Creator in the garden and find our significance, worth, security and identity in the right place once more.

This is the meaning of Genesis 1 and 2 in a nutshell. It is far, far more significant and important than any element of history that might be contained in those chapters. The order in which things were made is of no significance at all. We sometimes miss the wood for the trees! We build up the importance of the unimportant and run the risk of overlooking the real nuggets of gold placed here for our benefit.

Adam and Eve represent the first humans (and indeed all of us), of that there is no doubt. But that is as far as I'm able to go. Others will, of course, hold different views and that is fine by me. We can share an understanding of the spiritual truth without agreeing on the historicity of Genesis 1 and 2.


Questions:

  • How do you reconcile the accounts of creation in Genesis 1 and 2?
  • Does the sequence of creation make any difference to the underlying spiritual truth?
  • Can we love one another despite our sometimes wide diversities of understanding?

See also:

10 August 2012

What's in a name? (Repost)

This is a repost of an article originally published two years ago. I think it's worth raising this subject again now because I'm still looking for an answer.

I'll be honest with you - this is something that's been bugging me for a long, long time. Those of us who follow Jesus often refer to ourselves as 'Christians' or 'the Church', or in more specific cases we use the name of a particular organisation - 'I'm a member of the such-and-such church'.

An Escher print of endlessly connected fishThis troubles me because I really don't want to make any distinctions of this sort. We are all one in Christ, though we may have different gifts and abilities (Eph 4:1-7). We are one body and we should learn to see ourselves that way, not merely in terms of the Church Universal (although that is true and important) but in practical terms, in our daily lives and thinking.

The Bible recognises one church in different locations, it does not recognise different churches. Paul is emphatic on this point (1 Cor 1:12-14). The New Testament distinguishes church by province, city, and meeting place. We read of the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria, the church in Ephesus, the church that meets at the house of Priscilla and Aquila. The idea of distinguishing churches on the basis of leaders, doctrines or traditions is completely alien to the writers of the New Testament. In fact they always opposed any such move very strongly.

I am entirely happy to be known simply as someone who follows Jesus and is part of the church in Europe, the UK, England, the East of England, Cambridgeshire, St Neots, or Eaton Ford. I'm happy to be regarded as part of the church meeting in my house, or Jim's house, or Sean's house.

But there is a practical issue when a name is needed in, for example, a list. What I would prefer is to state that I'm a follower of Yahshua (Jesus) in St Neots. And if there's room, that might be acceptable but it will be confusing. So in a list like 'Eynesbury Methodist, Open Door, River Church, St Mary's Eaton Socon' what should I write?

Currently I use terms like 'organic church', 'house church', or 'simple church'. But these are not accurate or complete and they act to divide - which is the very thing I want to avoid! I'd like to write 'the church in St Neots' but that will not be understood.

Suggestions are welcome. Does anyone else worry about these things?

There doesn't seem to be a satisfactory answer. I don't want to be seen as set apart, I want to be seen as I see myself, part of the one body of Christ here in the town where I live. But there doesn't seem to be a word or simple phrase for that!

Perhaps it's better to avoid being listed and just get on with living as a follower of the King. The very existence of a list implies that the items on it can be distinguished in some way.

Some new thoughts - It occurs to me that the early believers referred to their faith and practice as 'The Way'. The term 'Christian' means 'little Christs' and was applied by others in a derogatory sense.

Do you think it would be a good idea to talk about 'The Way' again? Or perhaps 'The Path', or 'The Road'. Or it could be expanded to 'The Narrow Way'. Should we refer to ourselves as followers of The Way?

How would that affect how we see ourselves? How would it affect how others see us? Think about the views of other believers and of non-believers.

How do you suggest we tackle this naming problem?

09 May 2012

Drawn to the light

< On a spiritual journey? | Index | We've run out of wine >

Most people don't need to be told that there's more to life than the familiar material and emotional aspects. Our lives are enriched by spiritual yearning, a light that comes from beyond the place where reason fails.

Grey above and below, light in the distanceThere's something deep in human nature that makes us spiritually aware. Most of us know that in all the rich experiences of life, there is a need for something more. Even a wealthy person, in good health, with friends, fulfilling work, a loving family and a safe place to live - even such a person knows there's more. Perhaps much more.

What is the meaning of existence? How can I connect with the spiritual side of my life? When a person dies, does anything remain? Everybody ponders these questions at some time in life. Throughout the generations men and women have grappled with thoughts like these.

The great religions past and present have all tried to fill this human need for something other, something beyond. Perhaps you follow one of them. Or perhaps you find your spiritual energy in some other way.

When life treats us badly there are additional reasons to struggle with spiritual things. Maybe you have lost your home, or your partner. Maybe a loved one is ill, maybe you are ill yourself or there has been a death in the family. It can be hard to go on hoping. It can be hard to go on living.

I am willing to listen if you want to tell me your story, if you wish to do that you will find a way. But all I can do in the space of one blog post is tell you something of my own story.

My first wife, Judy, died when we were both forty-seven. Our teenage daughters were still in full-time education, Debbie at university and Beth soon to start. Judy and I had begun meeting regularly with two other couples, old friends on the same spiritual journey that we were on. And considering the difficulties and issues of Judy's illness they were absurdly happy times for her and for me too.

We lived day to day, immersed in each precious moment. The Spirit of Christ was alive in our hearts and he was with us in those moments too. The unbearable became easy. Or rather, there no longer was anything unbearable. When we met with our friends all of us were caught up into an amazing place, we were no longer just people in a room, we were in the presence of a spiritual power and presence that simply would not be denied.

We had been following Jesus for many years, but he was more alive within us now than at any time before. We had peace, and joy, and utter delight in knowing him together.

You can imagine I am sure, that having tasted such things, I really want to share them with other people whenever possible. This is good news - that Jesus can reach into our human distress and turn despair into blessing.

He saw us through everything and, if you ask him, he will see you through your troubles too. He will do it because he can, because he wants to, and because he loves you. If you don't already know this Jesus, then you need to know he is there and ready to listen. If you will allow him, he will make his home in your heart. Search for him and you will find him.

See the 'About' page and contact me if you want to ask questions or tell me about your own life issues. I will listen. Or read the Index page for the topic 'Spiritual Journey' for more details.

Questions:

  • What have you struggled with in your life?
  • Have you prayed about it?

See also:


< On a spiritual journey? | Index | We've run out of wine >

23 August 2010

THOUGHT - What's in a name?

I'll be honest with you - this is something that's been bugging me for a long, long time. Those of us who follow Jesus often refer to ourselves as 'Christians' or 'the Church', or in more specific cases we use the name of a particular organisation - 'I'm a member of the such-and-such church'.

An Escher print of endlessly connected fishThis troubles me because I really don't want to make any distinctions of this sort. We are all one in Christ, though we may have different gifts and abilities (Eph 4:1-7). We are one body and we should learn to see ourselves that way, not merely in terms of the Church Universal (although that is true and important) but in practical terms, in our daily lives and thinking.

The Bible recognises one church in different locations, it does not recognise different churches. Paul is emphatic on this point (1 Cor 1:12-14). The New Testament distinguishes church by province, city, and meeting place. We read of the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria, the church in Ephesus, the church that meets at the house of Priscilla and Aquila. The idea of distinguishing churches on the basis of leaders, doctrines or traditions is completely alien to the writers of the New Testament. In fact they always opposed any such move very strongly.

I am entirely happy to be known simply as someone who follows Jesus and is part of the church in Europe, the UK, England, the East of England, Cambridgeshire, St Neots, or Eaton Ford. I'm happy to be regarded as part of the church meeting in my house, or Jim's house, or Sean's house.

But there is a practical issue when a name is needed in, for example, a list. What I would prefer is to state that I'm a follower of Yahshua (Jesus) in St Neots. And if there's room, that might be acceptable but it will be confusing. So in a list like 'Eynesbury Methodist, Open Door, River Church, St Mary's Eaton Socon' what should I write?

Currently I use terms like 'organic church', 'house church', or 'simple church'. But these are not accurate or complete and they act to divide - which is the very thing I want to avoid! I'd like to write 'the church in St Neots' but that will not be understood.

Suggestions are welcome. Does anyone else worry about these things?

There doesn't seem to be a satisfactory answer. I don't want to be seen as set apart, I want to be seen as I see myself, part of the one body of Christ here in the town where I live. But there doesn't seem to be a word or simple phrase for that!

Perhaps it's better to avoid being listed and just get on with living as a follower of the King. The very existence of a list implies that the items on it can be distinguished in some way.

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