January 9, 2010

The Theology of the Body, Genesis

The book of Genesis features two accounts of creation. Detractors of Christianity, and even some Christians, claim these stories contradict each other by telling different versions of the same event – namely, when God created the world. The two creation accounts also pose a challenge to fundamentalists who hold a literal interpretation of the Bible. Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body, shows how the two creation stories in Genesis are complimentary, not contradictory.

The first creation account (Genesis 1:1-2:9) is called the Elohist account since the term used for God is “Elohim.” It is chronologically newer than the second creation account starting at Genesis 2:10. The second creation account is called the Yawhist account since the name used for God in that story is “Yahweh.”

The Elohist account or first creation story is creation from God’s point of view. God separates the light from the darkness, divides the waters, creates the sun, moon, and stars, land, vegetation, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea and so on. Before creating man God pauses as if pondering a momentous act. He makes man in his image, that is to say, in God’s own image. In this way, human beings – men and women – are different from everything else in creation.

The second creation account, the so-called Yawhist account, is creation from Adam’s point of view. The second creation account is the story of creation through Adam (and Eve's) experience. In other words, the second creation account is creation seen through the eyes of the first humans. In this sense, the Yawhist account is subjective - based on experience.

At first, Adam is alone without Eve. The Hebrew word for Adam in the Bible before the arrival of Eve is man meaning mankind. Adam before Eve is genderless. Only later does Adam the male appear with the first woman Eve. The Theology of the Body puts it this way:
The Bible calls the first human being "man" ('adam), but from the moment of the creation of the first woman, it begins to call him "man" (ish), in relation to ishshah ("woman," because she was taken from the man—ish).
Our personhood - being a subject before God - is more fundamental to who we are than even our gender. In the Bible our personhood, our dignity before God, comes before gender differentiation. (We will discuss gender more fully in a future post.)

God brings all the animals of the Garden to Adam to name. After naming all the animals Adam realizes he is alone. John Paul calls this "original solitude." It is through the experience of original solitude that Adam comes to realize that he is a person. Furthermore, after naming all the animals Adam is aware there are no other persons like him. (Adam knows that even the most human like animals are not persons.) He longs for an other to relate to and love. God waits for Adam to have this self-revelation before making Eve. As a loving creator, he never acts before Adam is ready.

Original solitude has two senses and it paves the way for "original unity." I will discuss original solitude further in my next post.

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