Parallelism in Genesis 2-3

I love both Creation stories, and I value their collective introduction to the story of redemption that is the Holy Bible.  I think that the Creation vs. Evolution debate totally clouds over the rhythmic, poetic nature of Genesis 1 and the earthy, intimate depiction of YHWH and adam in Genesis 2.  I think that the nature of the stories push the ‘how’ question to the side and bring the ‘who’ and ‘why’ questions to the forefront.  But I’ve noticed a distracting problem.

Chapters and Verses

In preparing and teaching the Genesis class, I have begun wondering about the demarcation of chapters and verses in the Bible.  It’s funny how arbitrary they seem.  Genesis 1 ends after the 6th day of Creation.  This seems to emphasize humanity as the crown of Creation.  That’s all well and good, except that’s not where the story ends.  The story ends (climaxes) with God resting on the seventh day and blessing the Sabbath.  There is a clear salutation in 2:4a “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created” (NRSV).  I would think that the Priestly source of Genesis 1 would want to emphasize the Sabbath, so as to emphasize the human need for worship.  Verse 2:4b begins what is a very long sentence that stretches to 2:7, explaining how God created humanity out of the dust of the earth before there was any vegetation (—for there was no rain, etc., etc., etc.) and God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils and “the man became a living being” (2:7 NRSV).  If it were me (since I know best), I would carry chapter 1 out to what is now 2:4a and begin chapter 2 at what is now 2:4b.  This doesn’t matter as much here, but it matters when you look at Genesis 2, 3 and 4.

Creation 2 begins with God creating adam out of the dust of the earth (adama in Hebrew).  Adam lives when YHWH breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Heb. ruah, which also means wind and spirit).  Our breath is God’s spirit, given to us through a kiss.  Intimacy with God is how we are created and why we live.  Intimacy is in God’s nature.  So it is that when God survey’s adam’s life in the garden, he proclaims: “It is not good that man should be alone” (2:18 NRSV).  Animals are created and God brings them to adam to be named.  At this point adam is just a gardener.  The animals are given to be a helper as his partner, but to no avail.  Adam’s demeanor is not detailed, but YHWH’s efforts denote concern about the happiness of adam.  Woman (Heb. ishshah) was created out of adam (ish—Hebrew term for male).  Alas, adam bursts into rhyme (Creation 2’s first poetry).  A post script is given explaining that a man leaves his father and mother and “clings” to his wife and they become one flesh.  Ish and Ishshah were both naked and unashamed.  Close curtains, end of Act 1…the beginning of a beautiful love tale.

Chapter 3 details the incident at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The crafty/shrewd/wide/cunning serpent confronts Ishshah regarding what prohibitions YHWH has placed on them within the garden.  The story details no prohibition placed on any other creature.  In fact, almost all artistic renditions of this story depict the serpent in the tree.  She eats and gives to adam who was with her*.  Their world falls apart in many ways: they are interrogated by YHWH, they rat on each other, they receive apt and personal punishments, they pose a potential threat to YHWH and are consequently banished from the Eden.  Curtains close, Act 2 ends in devestation.

Or does it.

A Parallel Rendering

Personally, this ending of chapter 3 is more dramatic.  And maybe that is in keeping with the spirit of the story.  But if we are allowed to be more playful with the text, maybe this ending is inadequate.  Less dramatic, but just as revealing would be an ending that more closely parallels the ending of chapter 2.  We are offered that at the beginning of chapter 4.  “Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.”  Next she bore his brother Abel.  Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground.”

Chapter 2 ends with a lesson in human nature: we are meant for intimacy and honesty (nakedness).  Chapter 3 clearly throws this calling for a loop.  Doubt enters the arena, courage in the face of danger enters the arena, the consequences of our actions enter the arena, shame enters the arena, hiddenness enters the arena, scape-goating enters the arena.  Adam and Eve make rudimentary clothing.  Adam confesses to being “afraid, because I was naked” (3:10 NRSV).

But…They get over it.

Well What Do We Do Now?

The first thing that adam and Eve do upon their banishment from Eden is return to nakedness.  They cling to one another and become one flesh.  This is a screwy, messed up, difficult world of shame, toil, enmity and curses.  You can make it if you stick together and help each other out.  Yes, plenty of innocence was lost.  But look what has been found: real intimacy based on wisdom and children.  Curtains close, Act 2, life is good, even on the wrong side of Eden.  We could call this play Original Intimacy.

I know, Cain and Abel continue the story.  But I wonder if we cut off the story of adam and Eve two verses too soon.  Do we focus on what is lost and spend eternity throwing stones at Eve?  Or do we focus on what it means to carry the ruah of God in a world of grand imperfection?  Have you ever noticed that neither adam or Eve complain about their banishment.  Silence can speak so loudly at times.  All we hear is Eve marveling at her powers of life: “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.”  Generations later, here we are.

*In our class, one person kept wondering aloud about Eve taking the fruit to Adam.  I kept insisting that Adam was there.  After several rounds of this, the student said: “Where does it say that?”  Guess what we learned: whereas the NIV, NRSV, NKJV and Good News Bible all clarify Adam’s presence, the old RSV does not.


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