Showing posts with label relationship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label relationship. 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:

27 July 2012

Not rules, but relationship

How we need to get the basis of our faith right. But so often we have it utterly wrong! It's not about rules, it's about relationship. Jesus was quite clear about this - 'I and the Father are one', 'Love one another as I have loved you'.

Interview with William P Young
I've been listening to a two-year-old recording of an interview with the author of 'The Shack', William P Young. Kathleen Slattery Moschkau questions him and he explains the background to the book as well as some of his own, personal history.

The entire interview is moving, informative and gripping, but it also gives us glimpses of the real Paul Young as well as glimpses of the love of the One who just is. The One who was and is and will always be. The One who longs to find me in my lostness.

There are two snippets from the interview that I need to share with you here. Not because they are better than any other part but simply because I won't be able to rest until I have shared them. I have stopped working on another post so I can get this one out there first.

First, here's the link to the interview so that you can hear it for yourself.

The two segments I feel compelled to share are around 10:43 and 19:30 minutes into the interview.

Rejection - At 10:43 Paul mentions that churches sometimes reject people who are beginning to be open.  He explains that he was once involved in a fellowship where this happened. The way he puts it is 'when their cracks showed up we just kicked them out'. If that sounds harsh it's because it is! But it happens because we are lost. Instead of loving the person we are afraid of the cracks we see. We can't handle it. We preserve our rules and structures by rejecting the 'misfits' who would cause the entire facade to collapse.

Acceptance - And at 19:30 Paul explains that 'Jesus came to destroy religion by introducing a relationship'. It's not about rules. It's about love. It's about relationship.

Those two segments are saying exactly the same thing in two different ways. We often handle those around us by rejecting whatever threatens the things that seem important. We don't want our world to crumble.

But Father (Daddy, Papa, Abba) simply pours out his love over us (and his grace, and his peace, and the fragrance of his presence, and even his glory - John 17:20-22).

He wants me to do the same. He wants me to love and pour out grace, peace, and the fragrance of his Spirit and glory. He wants me to do it freely and abundantly and with gay abandon. It's never too late to start.

Do you have stories of  times when rules took precedence over love? Can you identify good and less good experiences in you own life? How would you describe Papa's yearning for relationship with us as his children? How can we learn to better accept one another in life-giving relationship?

01 January 2011

RESPONSE - Building a coffin?

Steve and Marilyn Hill have given us food for thought in their latest message. They write about theological systems and how a coffin is a good analogy for them. Not that theology is a bad thing in and of itself, but no theological construct can be an adequate container for the truth.

An ornate mediaeval coffinHere are three quotes from the Hills' article...

We cannot make a rational system out of our relationship with our spouse and we try to do so with our relationship with God?

Every theological system is like a coffin. The only body you can get to fit into it is a dead one.

The universe is relationally ordered. God is a Father and God is a love relationship of Father, Word and Holy Spirit. Their union is a mystery of love and mutual honour.

Steve and Marilyn's message is well worth reading in full. I agree with them and I'm impressed that it's been a recurring (and increasing) theme throughout the church over the last few years.

The essence of this thinking is that church is about relationship much more than it is about behaviour or tradition. Jesus is much more about life than he is about teaching or knowledge. If I truly follow him I will love the Father, Son and Spirit enough to let them change me at the most fundamental level. The result of that change (and the evidence for it) will be that I love those around me enough to impact their lives - just as Jesus did 2000 years ago.

In a nutshell - I am first loved by the One who is love so that I may also love.

That is all the theology I need. And the box that contains that theology is not the shape of a coffin, but the shape of a living temple.

I'm in full agreement with Steve and Marilyn here. It's not about theological positions, it's about the Truth. As William P Young puts it, 'It's not about what I do, it's about who He is'.

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