THE CREATION STORIES
Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Genesis 2:4b-25
The first two chapters of Genesis include two different stories about how the world and everything in it was created by God. Not concerned about the details of science or history, the authors of these stories wanted to answer the big questions that people have been asking since the beginning of time: Who is God? Who are we? Where did everything come from? Why is there evil in the world? Why do we die? In our modern world, many are convinced that we cannot know the answers to these questions, that they will forever vex us as unanswerable mysteries, or that the answers do not exist or do not matter. But, the ancient Hebrews thought differently, and so do we Catholics. We believe that God is the source of the answers to these questions, and that God has revealed the answers to us. We can know God, and we can know the truth about God, though we can never pretend to fully comprehend the mystery that is God. Knowing the truth about God, we can know the truth about our world and ourselves.
The two stories of creation at the very beginning of the Bible come from two traditions or ways of thinking about God and our relationship with God. Though they think differently about God, they are both right! If you have ever looked at a tree or waterfall or a mountain from two different directions, you might think that you were looking at two different objects. There are different ways to look at the same thing. We may be looking at two pictures of a mountain that look very different, but it is the same mountain. Just so, these stories give us two ways of thinking about God, but He is the same God.
The first creation story is the famous story of God creating the world in six days, then resting on the seventh. The authors who wrote this story came from a world that was challenged by social disorder and chaos. Everything seemed up in the air about who was running things and in what direction society was headed. Who is in charge here? Is there any direction to life? Is it all just a mass of confusion, where it is every man for himself?
In this social and political tumult, the Hebrew authors of the first creation story give us an image of God as One Who is very much in charge, creating with authority in an orderly fashion. God says, “Let there be light!” and there is light. No questions asked. What God says goes. As well, when God finishes what He has created on each day, He pronounces it “good.” Man and woman, created together, are the summit of God’s creation. Made in His image and after His likeness and called to care over His creation, man and woman hold a special place of dignity in God’s created order.
The second creation story paints a very different picture of God. Here, God is close to His creation. God does not create by merely speaking Creation forth by the authority of His word, but is involved in the nitty-gritty details, getting His fingernails dirty in forming man out of the earth and breathing into his nostrils the breath of life. In this story, the man is created first, before the plants and animals, and alone, without the woman. God is very concerned that the man is alone, and seems to create the animals almost as an experiment, a first effort in finding a suitable partner for him. The man names the animals, signifying his dominion over them, but fails to find in any of them one like him. Finally, God causes the man to fall asleep and creates from his own flesh and bones the woman, one like him, a helpmate.
The second creation story continues through the third and fourth chapters of Genesis. Signifying the innocence of humankind before the Fall, the man and woman are naked, yet feel no shame. Then comes the sadness of the man and woman’s rebellion against God, and the separation from God they suffer as a result. But, God does not leave us without hope. Even as the second creation story comes to an end, God promises One Who will restore our closeness to Him, One Who will be a descendant of the woman, Who will suffer Himself, but will overcome evil.
WHAT TRUTHS DO THE CREATION STORIES REVEAL ABOUT GOD?
- God always existed.
- God is the Creator of all things; He sustains all things, and protects and guides all He has created.
- God is pleased with His Creation. Creation is good.
- God made people in His image and likeness, as the pinnacle of Creation.
- God wants to live in peace and harmony with people and all Creation.
- God gave people stewardship over Creation, to use Creation for their needs and to be responsible for its care.
ADAM and EVE
God created people to live in peace and harmony with Him and all Creation. He told Adam and Eve that they could eat of all the fruit of the Garden of Eden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:2-3).
Why? Because people do not decide what is good and evil. God reveals to us what is good and evil out of the desire that we be close to Him and follow Him in all our ways. By following His commands, we stay close to Him. By going our own way we are trying to be God, and we quickly get lost.
Tempted by the serpent, however, Adam and Eve do eat of the tree of which God had forbidden them. This is known as the Fall where, by disobeying God, Adam and Eve lose their close friendship with Him (Genesis 3:8-13). Since then, because of Adam and Eve’s sin, all people are born outside of friendship with God. This is what is meant by Adam and Eve being sent out of the Garden (Genesis 3:22-24). This is what is meant by original sin. Original sin is not something bad we have done. Original sin is that we are born outside of God’s friendship. Original sin is healed by Baptism, when God comes to live in us and we become members of His Church, the Body of Christ.
God did not leave us without hope after the Fall. Even after we disobeyed Him, God promised that evil would not prevail. Someday, One would come to destroy evil. Speaking to the serpent, God says:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” Genesis 3:15
The Church calls this verse the Protoevangelium: the first proclamation of the gospel.
WHAT TRUTHS DOES THE STORY OF ADAM and EVE REVEAL ABOUT GOD?
- God created people to live in harmony with Him and all of Creation.
- Sin is disobeying God, and the loss of our friendship with God is a consequence of sin. Death is also a consequence of sin.
- Original sin is the state of being born outside of God’s friendship.
- God does not abandon us, but gives us hope that sin and death will be destroyed by a Redeemer.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.