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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Genesis - Chapters 2-3

Lesson 2: The First Human Beings: Genesis 2-3

What if… faith and science agreed that there really was an Eden?

Adam and Eve:

What if… Adam and Eve were two people chosen from the crowd?

One man. One woman:
Genesis 1 ends with the creation of human beings. “Male and female He created them,” is says, implying more than one person, and certainly not discounting the possibility of more than two. But Genesis 2 starts with one man, Adam, in the garden, and begs the question: Was he the only “man?”

What if he was the only man tested by God? What if there were other “people,” but their generations would die out in time, and only Adam’s descendants would survive? Would that contradict Genesis 1 and 2, or could it be valid, if unconventional, interpretation? And which matters more, the interpretation, or continuing to read the word?

Richard Dawkins describes research that shows all humanity to be descended from a single woman who probably lived in Africa. She would have been one member of a new human race, the only one who still has surviving descendants today. Dawkins suggests that one day we'll similarly "discover" the single man, one of her descendants, from whom we are all descended. But this wouldn’t prove the Bible right or wrong about the story of Adam.

This type of research involves statistical analysis of mutations, including the average rate of mutation, the rate and propagation of successful mutation, and a study of certain proteins present only in women.

Dawkins writes that this “proto-Eve” is not the Biblical Eve, and that when we find evidence of “proto-Adam,” he will not be the Biblical Adam either. That’s his interpretation of the findings, and it’s a perfectly valid interpretation. Mine would be different. Personally I think proto-Eve might be the Biblical Adam’s ancestor, and that the Biblical Adam, her great-great-… grandson, married a single wife, Eve.

What’s your interpretation? How much does it matter which of us is right if we both look to the Bible for God’s view?

Adam’s Rib:
Incidentally, the word “adam” could be used to mean earth and clay, an interesting side-note on Genesis 2’s describing Adam made from clay. Scientifically speaking, we are all made from the same stuff as the clay of the earth, so the Bible and science have no quarrel there, unless we choose to make one.

Eve being made from Adam’s rib is a little more problematical. And men don’t have more ribs than women. But Eve being grown from the same flesh as Adam makes sense. It was her genes and his that formed the basis of the human race. And God creates, or agrees with, human morality. Man and woman will bear children together, not man and beast.

The Garden of Eden:

What if… Eden was in Africa or Egypt?

Location, location: Where was Eden, and where did they run to?
Genesis 2:8-9 describes a garden “in the East”—East of Canaan maybe, but if God told his people this story before they reached Canaan, it could mean East of where they started. If the human race started out in Africa as many scientists believe, East of Africa might mean Egypt.

In Genesis 3:24, Adam and Eve look back and see the Eastern gate guarded by fiery angels—maybe men in white robes with flaming swords, or maybe burning vegetation as wildfires take hold in a time of global warming. Scientists speak of mankind migrating towards the Fertile Crescent (Egypt, Canaan, …). Maybe God removed His protection from Africa as a result of the Fall, and Eden became a dangerous place to stay.

Read Genesis 1:30, 4:4. The end of Genesis 1 suggests a world, or a garden at least, of vegetarians. But after the Fall, Abel is offering animals on an altar to God—maybe meat-eating began after the Fall. Scientists suggest the first human beings would have fed on nuts and berries, but might have learned to hunt when the climate changed. Meanwhile, they say farming developed in the fertile crescent as a result of hunting (keeping your meat near at hand) and seed-collecting (seeds sprouting where they fall near the camp).

What about that Snake?
Primates are typically afraid of snakes. The Bible’s describing the tempter as a snake might actually support evolution’s claim of our common inheritance, anthropomorphizing the cause of sin by blaming the creature we most feared at the time.

A perfect world?
All the constants of scientific equations seem to be perfectly fine-tuned for human existence. Some scientists see this as evidence of God’s design. Others suggest there are infinite “multi-verses” and we, by definition, live in the only one that works for us. But what if God could have fine-tuned the whole of the earth, not just those scientific constants. Couldn’t He have made a world with no sickness, no suffering, no accidents…? Maybe the Fall is the consequence of our seizing control for ourselves.

What Tree of Life?
The Bible says there were two trees in the Garden of Eden—the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of live—which we weren’t supposed to touch. Why was God so concerned not to let us get back to the tree of life?

Maybe because we’re sinners, we need to die and be reborn, or else eternal life would be eternal misery. Alternatively, perhaps the problem is that we are creators, like the God who made us: We need to be separated from the tree of life, or else we might create eternal evil.

There are lots of possible interpretations, all with one thing in common: Sin entered the world. And God promised to vanquish it.

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