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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Old Testament Tales: Adam and Eve

The Beginning: Adam and Eve
1. Did God make plants before people or people before plants?
2. Did God make man before woman or woman before man?
3. What did the first human beings eat?
4. Where was the Garden of Eden?
5. What did God tell Adam and Eve not to eat?
6. How many children did Adam and Eve have?
7. Where did Adam and Eve live after they were thrown out of Eden?
8. Why did Cain kill Abel?
9. What happened to the surviving brother?
10. Where did civilization begin?

For some people, the Bible story of creation is “just a myth.” For others, it proves evolution doesn’t exist. And for others, myself included, the remarkable agreement between Genesis and the discoveries of modern science (as opposed to traditions of ancient belief) make it hard not to believe in God. After all, how could people more than 3,000 years ago (a very conservative estimate) ever have guessed that plants evolved before fish and birds before mammals before man?

In the beginning, there was light, or maybe the Big Bang. When scientists first postulated this, a breakaway group refused to accept the evidence and produced ever more complicated theories explaining it away. They didn’t like the idea of a Big Bang because a “primal cause” (beginning) might imply a “primal causer” (God). It doesn’t, of course, though I believe God is the primal causer and eternal guide. Today a different segment of the scientific community is equally convinced evolution implies the non-existence of God. But other Christians believe evolution is the tool God used to create.

After light, God made water—a second essential to life. A day passed, or a period of time, depending on just how specific we believe primitive Hebrew to have been. Then came plants; then the skies began to clear so the sun and moon appeared. Next came fish and birds and animals and man. Did primitive man eat nuts and berries as the Bible says? Most probably, yes. And the primitive world would have had them in abundance.

Of course, Genesis 2 tells a completely different story from Genesis 1. There, God forms man after water but before the plants, and then he makes the garden. Interestingly, there’s an eastward motion implied—man is created, placed in “the east” in a garden, then thrown out eastwards with a fiery guard placed at the eastern gate to prevent his return. Various studies, including recent ones in genetics, suggest humanity began in Africa and moved eastwards to the fertile crescent as the earth warmed and the land behind became uninhabitable. So maybe Eden is in Africa, and the fiery sword is desert heat.

The Bible tells us (Genesis 3) God placed two special trees in Eden—the Tree of Life, and the Tree of Knowledge. The one we weren’t meant to eat from was the tree of knowledge. In some traditions, it bore grapes; in others, apples. Some stories say Adam and Eve’s sin was pride. Others say it was the very human desire to control and make decisions for ourselves. Whatever, the Bible tells that the perfect ecological equilibrium of Eden was spoiled by sin. From then on, we live in a broken world.

Adam and Eve had three sons, Cain, Abel and Seth. Cain killed Abel in jealousy over sacrifices made to God. Since Abel offered meat, it’s likely mankind was no longer vegetarian. (Meat smells better than grain when burned, which might explain Cain’s jealousy). In punishment, Cain was banished. In some traditions, he marries his sister first. In others he marries into a different tribe, credited with building the first cities and civilizations before they died out (Genesis 4). Genetically, there must be one “father” from whom all human genes descend, so Cain’s tribe might represent a genetic dead-end.

1 comment:

Lloyd said...

One thing I enjoy about your Bible studies Sheila is that you lay everything out in such a way that makes it easy to understand. There are a lot of stories in the Bible that we must believe really took place because God's Word is the truth. That is where FAITH comes into a believer’s life. If God said it happened....Then who are we to question Him. Great post and blessings to you. Lloyd