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Creation's Parables : Genesis 2

Harmonizing Genesis 1-11 with Standard Science

By Jo Helen Cox


Creation's Parables is a paraphrased account that leaves perfectionism out of the Biblical story, simply because the Bible never stipulates God created everything perfect or anything perfect.  Instead, nature acts as interpreter to relate the events of biblical creation: the story of nature told by nature.  Blow is a text analysis of Genesis 2 with notes where the text details match or do not match the evidence expressed by standard science.  Surprisingly, most of the details match the evidence.

Perfectionistic assumptions overshadow the garden story.  Most details people envision are not biblical.  The writer never uses words that convey an idealistic world.  No lion naps with a lamb.  God never cursed humanity with mortality.

These stories were written in story form, meaning they flow with a beginning, middle and end.  They must be handled as they were told.  Story form does not dictate pure fiction.  Truth and history can be expressed easier in this form.  More importantly, listeners retain the information longer.

Passages quoted are from the New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by Permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Genesis 2 with Interpretations from Nature

Creation of Man

7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

After the short version of creation, God forms a man from dust.  The word is not clay, the medium of ceramics.  Dust is useless, and a source of irritation for those who walked on dirt roads.  Scientifically, all life came from the same minerals contained on the Earth.  In Genesis 1:26-27, God formed mankind, the lineage of humans.  Scientifically, humanity's lineage reaches back to the dawn of life that came from dust/minerals.  Genesis 1, Genesis 2, and science describe the same beginning in slightly different ways.  Creation is one, as its Creator is one.

Into an individual, God breathed life.  This is not the God of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel painting, who from a distance administers electroshock to awaken man.  The God of Genesis 2-3 is very personal, up close, and hands on.  He is the God spoken of in the rest of the Bible, the one who is near, the one who is always with us.

Life.  What does it mean to have life?  The animals and plants were alive.  The man’s lineage was alive.  This event produced something different from just life.  It instilled life beyond life, a personal bond to the Creator.  Man could now reflect (echo, mirror) the qualities of God by choice, be His image.  But first man had to learn what that meant.

Into the Garden #1

8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

This text, like Genesis 1, does not described anything as perfect.  Nor does it say, God built this garden inside the time frame of Genesis one.

It never mentions whether other people lived or not lived outside.  Adam was the first “image of God,” not necessarily the first of the hominid lineage.

The garden was made from the best.  That meant there were less than the best to pick from.  Without unbiblical perfectionism, the garden was a natural place set in a natural world described by paleontology and paleoanthropology.[1]

God also set the scenario.  The garden contained ample food and lacked danger.  These two conditions have always given humans time to think.  God prepared a place of learning.

In that peaceful garden, two named trees grew.  They provided a choice to determine our second distinction from the animals.  What happened next was by His design.  God's anger and revulsion following the eating of the fruit in most interpretations is not biblical.

The River of Eden

The river description is a strange interruption of the second Genesis story.  Actually, it is sandwiched between two placements of man into the garden, but does not fit either.  Multiple beginnings may support a splicing conclusion.  This simply means more than one version (verbal or written) existed at the time of biblical canonization.  Splicing shows how the canon editors thought.  They did not combine texts to produce a clean story.  They wanted history, not epic tales, not perfection.

The region's names reveal a late writing date with its homage to descendants of Noah and nations existing only after the time of Moses.  Havilah, son of Cush, a location at the time of King Saul, 1 Samuel 15:7 – Cush, grandson of Noah, Moses married a Cushite wife, Numbers 12:1 – Asshur, grandson of Noah, Balaam prophesied against Asshur, Numbers 24:24.

Splicing and late additions do not invalidate inspiration.  God uses our imperfections for His purposes.  Without perfectionism, this section could show us the writer or canon editor believed life outside the garden continued as it always had.  Rivers flowed and fed the land where several kinds of not-quite-humans lived and found things to desire.  Luxury goods convey intelligent innovation.  People extracted plant juices to make aromatic resins for medicines and fashioned gold with pretty stones.

Early hunter-gatherers did not need these products for survival.  Of course, “need” never was the driving force for collecting shiny-pretties.  Our natural origins produced desire to acquire physical things.  God’s plan for us, then as now, is to learn to desire spiritual treasures.  That difference required knowledge beyond that of an animal.

At this time of change, the Eden story begins.

Into the Garden #2

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

God placed man in the garden a second time.  Because of the intervening river section, this might show splicing of multiple available texts as the editors chose what to include in the canon.  Both versions had details they did not want to lose, but they also did not want to rewrite one story to incorporate data into the other.  However, it might also show multiple experiments or multiple individuals living in proximity.[2]

This second arrival lacked the dust reference but gave man a job.  Gardening was and is hard work.  It is necessary for survival.  Work does not describe a perfect garden.

The Forbidden Tree

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

God placed a stipulation upon one tree.  Though most translations show a Hebrew form of doubled emphasis, “shall die,” the literal translation of this difficult Hebrew phrase is, “In the day you eat, to die you will die.”  As it obviously did not mean an immediate physical death, most theologies reflect the belief that eating activated eventual physical death within the immortal man.  However, no biblical passage bluntly supports Adam’s immortality.

Many people quote Romans 5:12 to say Paul believed Adam was immortal.  However, the theme of Romans is spiritual life and spiritual death before physical death.  If that verse only described physical death, then verse 5:17 meant Christians became physically immortal.  Paul knew better than that.

I believe God’s command establishes the “second death” hinted at in the Old Testament and repeated clearly throughout the New Testament.  Before the fruit, man was sinless.  After the fruit, each person has the duty to choose good over evil.  After physical life, God judges the soul on those choices.  From the beginning, our choice was God’s plan.

Man’s Next Step

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

God chose the time for the next step of man’s journey.  This sinless individual was alone, which was not good.  God knew His presence was not enough.  The Bible is all about relationship, our relationship with family, friends, coworkers, and enemies.  But most of all, it concerns growing our relationship with God as we experience human relationships.  These are steps each person must learn.

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

The writer says God made the animals the same as man.  Evolution theory starts in the exact same place.  Life started as dust/dirt/ground/mineral.

Man’s lesson opened with a project: name the animals.  From one point in history, humans started naming animals.  First we saw differences, like "I can catch it," or "it will eat me." Then we started classifying more subtle differences, like domesticated and wild.  This lead directly to Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), who named things with an obsessive compulsive drive.  He grouped things as to their related characteristics.  His lists lead to modern taxonomy.  Genetics shows that these superficial characteristics are related to DNA.  Creation is one, as its Creator is one.

The text does not say man petted or befriended any of the animals.  Time is not mentioned, so “naming” might have taken days or years.  It does not note the number of animals.  He only named those brought to name.

Nothing in this text says God instilled language into Adam.  The outside almost-humans might have named animals also.  That was not the point.  Man discovered that he was different.  None of the creatures were his equal.  He learned a morality lesson.  Man needed to be with someone like himself.

21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.  23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

This is a strange statement.  What could the ancient writer have envisioned?  Whatever that was, it also fits with today’s science.

The Hebrew word often translated “rib” actually means “side.”  Adam did not lose a bone.  What was taken could have been DNA samples.  God could have cloned a female, or infused an almost human with the DNA.  With the same genetic makeup came the breath of God, which provided life beyond life.  She was another image of God.

Again, no statement of time dictates the interval between the operation and the presenting.  It does not say he woke to find her by his side.

Verse 24 is an obvious aside by a much later storyteller.  It speaks of sex, but more importantly of a relationship bond.  When this bond is strong, it teaches the next generation that a loving commitment is very important.  God’s commitment to us is stronger.

25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

The garden, a safe place to live and learn, nourished Man and Woman.  They had no need of protection from thorns, burs, or sharp rocks.  Clothing remained unnecessary, for this transpired before the concept of shame that scorns self.  The text, anthropology, and evolution theory all agree.  The concept of shame began early, but not “from the beginning.”  It makes us different from all other animals.

[1] Paleontologists study fossils.  Paleoanthropologist study fossil humans and their kin.

[2] I tend to go with the first as it is the simplest answer, but all three might be correct.



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