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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Genesis The Book Of Beginnings Part 7 - Day Six of Creation (Genesis 1:26-31)

(Note:  all references to the Church Fathers in all the studies of this series are taken from Andrew Louth and Thomas C. Oden, eds., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture {Downers Grove, IL:  Intervarsity Press, 2001}.  In this lesson, the references come specifically from pages 27-45.  I am citing this from the outset as a lot of reliance will be on that material from that source.  Thank you.)

We have almost come to the end of the Creation account in Genesis 1, and Day Six is where God creates the pinnacle of his Creation, namely mankind.  It is in mankind that God creates an image of Himself, and therefore this is why throughout the Bible and the documentation of salvation history, the focus narrows until it gets to Christ, and then widens again after Christ is on the earth - God's plan was to single out a select group of the human race to culminate in the ultimate plan of salvation, Jesus as God Himself come to atone for our sins, so that all the human race would be able to have the opportunity to come to salvation and full restoration with the Father.  Therefore, although God does "rest" on the seventh day of Creation, the story of man continues through at least two more chapters of Genesis in relation to man's creation.  This is why the events of Day Six almost totally center on the creation of the first man, Adam, and on the life of Adam for several more chapters thereafter.

When we begin to read the account of God creating man on Day Six, we note a difference in phraseology.  Up until this point, when God created something, the words "let there be" were used.  However, when it comes to mankind, the phrase changes to "let us make"  In I Corinthians 15:45, we are reminded that "and so it is written, 'the first man, Adam, became a living being," and in verse 47 that "the first man was of the earth, made of dust," and (verse 49) "as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall bear the image of the heavenly man (Jesus)."  Although the sin nature corrupted the image of mankind by introducing sin and death, we still recall what it says in Genesis 1:26, where God is speaking as a Trinity by saying "Let us make mankind in our image and likeness."  This is a clear Trinitarian reference, as understood by the Church, in that the "Us" it speaks of cannot be angels, as St. Lawrence of Brindisi points out based on his reading of rabbinical sources, because the Hebraic tradition taught that angels came into being on the second day of Creation as created beings themselves - they did not assist in the Creation process, but were rather part of it (Toth and Warkulwicz, St. Lawrence Brindisi on Creation and the Fall.  Mount Jackson, VA:  the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, 2009. p. 81).  This will come into play later too, as it also would mean that Satan's fall was after the Creation and not prior, because Satan didn't exist prior to the Creation of the universe.  Therefore, when God said "let us make," it references the plurality of divine Persons (the Trinity) and also alludes to the unique nature of the human soul as well.  In Hebrew, the word used for God at these references is the plural proper noun Elohim, which means "Lords."  So, from the beginning then we see a Trinitarian participation in the Creation process, but specifically when it came to the creation of man.  In our previous study on the Lord's Prayer, you will recall Guardini noting that this also applies when Jesus addresses God as Father - Guardini says "What Jesus means is different.  It has pleased God, the almighty ruler and author of the world, the Creator and Lord of mankind, to make His creatures His children.  It is not by His nature that He is our Father, but by His gracious decree - truly a divine one - made before the beginning of time, that He has become our Father" (Romano Guardini, The Lord's Prayer.  Germany:  Matthias Grunewald Verlag, 1932. p. 22).  This means God had a more personal stake in the creation of mankind than He had in earlier creation, and mankind was meant to be the pinnacle of His created order, divine children endowed with attributes (image of) their Father.  His creation of humanity, then, was a special act of love.  Although God lovingly created and designed all Creation, it was mankind which He chose to imprint Himself in a special way.  So, why the word "man?"  We shall discuss this next.

Although this will probably blow away decades of Sunday School theology for many of those who read this, something needs to be pointed out.  Adam was not a proper name, but rather was a title, a general noun.  The word is the root of the Hebrew word adamah which means "earth," although Josephus argued that the root of Adam was adom, which literally means "ruddy."  The latter term denotes red clay that man was thought to have been formed by God from, and it makes sense later in other Scriptural metaphors (especially the classic "potter and clay" passage we find in Isaiah 64:8).  It is of interest too that when we study Genesis 11, a common idea runs through many of the world's languages regarding this - in Latin, for instance the word for man, homo (not to be confused with the Greek adjective hwmw, which means "same as.") has as its root the word humus, which is translated "ground."  Today, we still refer to dark soil as humus, and it is considered to be a rich planting soil made up of decomposed organic matter.  The spiritual application for that is profound, in that often it takes the dying to self - as in the decay of material that makes up humus - to bring forth new life; the vegetation we see sprouting that bears fruit.  There is a planting analogy that can be made, based on these terms, that describes how God transforms man from being corrupt to incorruptible (note further in I Corinthians 15, for instance).  Bottom line is that as throughout many places in Scripture, Adam is not necessarily a proper name, but may simply be just referring to the first man - could the first man have had a name, and if so, what was it?  It is not important to the story at this point to try to figure that out, so as many have done over the centuries, we will simply call the first man Adam despite whatever his real proper name was.  Adam however is proper to both the first created man, as well as the first female (Eve), and the term embraces both male and female as we see in 1:27 where it says "male and female He created them."  

Discussing further the Trinitarian consultation, we first of all see the image of God as the Word in John 1:1, which traditionally reads "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."  In the original Greek translation of this verse, the phrase in the beginning is in the accusative , and it reads like this:  En archei hayn Logos kai Logos hayn pros ton Theon. To do a word study on this, essentially here is what happening - when this was translated by St. Jerome into Latin, it became in principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum.  The accusative here implies direct object, and can mean either "in" or "from,"  and the Latin accusative also gives an indication as to the duration of time - this means that the Word (Jesus Christ) was with God and is God not only in the beginning, but also from the beginning.  As God, in his being qua being, transcends our own temporal limitations, the eternality of Jesus the Son with God the Father is plainly an indication that Jesus exists at Creation, and was involved in the creative process as part of the Trinitarian Godhead.  But, as St. Clement of Alexandria notes, it also means something else for us - the image of God is in His Word, and in the image of the Word is the true man the way God originally intended.  Jesus alone then is the visible face of God, and man is created in that image, as is noted by Church Father Marius Victorinus.  We are, in essence, an "image of the image."  Then there is the discussion of image vs. likeness.  First, according to Origen, the perfection of God's likeness is preserved for man at his salvation, which is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.  And, in a true Thomistic interpretation then, we could say that man in one's being is made in God's image; however, to be in God's likeness is only possible via the subjectivity of will.  This is why, going back to the Lord's Prayer, that the phrase "Thy will be done" is the gateway petition to the entire prayer - as Guardini notes, God's will is His holy intention for the world and for us, and His eternal counsel, the fruit of His wisdom, the force of His stern decrees, and the loving desire of His heart (Guardini, p. 5).  The subjectivity of man's will to God's, as Guardini writes further, should arise only from man's inner being - from his heart, his intellect, his love, and his free will (Guardini, p. 6).  To put it into the perspective of our study here, the image is what is created, and the likeness is formed by our willing submission to God's divine will.  Therefore, in our being, we are created perfect, but like the original creation of the earth on the First Day, we are "without form and void" until we allow the Holy Spirit to "hover over us" and transform us.  The only way that is possible is through the shed Blood of Jesus Christ, which we emerge from the waters of Holy Baptism having been cleansed by, and we then start to be formed in the likeness of God.  Note that on the Sixth Day of Creation, however, the Fall and sin had not happened yet, so at that point man was both in the image and likeness of God.  It was only after the Fall we will read about in Genesis 3 that man forfeited the likeness when the corruption of sin and death entered, and only Jesus Christ has the power and ability to restore that to us.

Due to the special nature of God's creation regarding mankind, God also gives dominion to man over Creation - it is said that Adam may have been the smartest and most accomplished man alive.  In a very short time, Adam names every creature on the earth, gets a wife he bears from himself (Eve), and he can speak every language of the world!   This is truly not bad for someone only a few days old at this point!  Like the creatures of the earth, God mandates Adam and his new bride Eve to "be fruitful and multiply."  St. Gregory of Nyssa notes some things about this from his writings, and one thing is that this increase involves two types:

1.  One involves the body in physical growth.
2.  The second involves the soul in education.

St. Augustine also notes that this "fruitful and multiply" aspect of man's existence refers to the time prior to the Fall, and it means that yes, Adam and Eve did have conjugal relations before the Fall too!  The conjugal union was then, as it is today, considered a blessing, and it is now sealed sacramentally in the matrimonial covenant.  And, that is one aspect of man's original nature that remained even after the Fall, although Satan has used and corrupted sex over the centuries into something that God never intended it to be.  The created order, therefore, from the beginning, included a nuptial covenant that was holy, and meant to be solely between a man and a woman.  Although God tolerated polygamist marriages for a time later (probably as a means of allowing man to repopulate the earth after the Flood, but that is just a personal theory), His original intention was a union of just one of each sex with one of the opposite sex.   This is why today such sins as adultery, homosexuality, and other misuses of sex are not only against God's commands, but they are in violation of the natural order as God created it.  The eternality of this bond also is why divorce is a serious problem for anyone professing to follow God and submission to His will - God intended the nuptial bond to be an eternal one, and it is something that should not be broken but rather preserved at all costs.

God told man also not only to take dominion over Creation, but also to "fill the earth and subdue it."  In doing so, Adam not only had authority to name the creatures, but he was delegated the authority to rule them by God Himself.  And, additionally, God gave man the vegetation for food, including as we see in verse 29:

1.  Every herb that yields seed (grains?).
2.  Every tree whose fruit yields seed.

In verse 30, the plants also were created to nourish the beasts and birds as well as man, and Novatian, an early Church Father, gives us some insights on that.  First, it is commonly taught that before the Fall man primarily ate fruit and natural produce.  After the Fall, something happened to man's physiology due to the necessity of working, and his body began to require more complex proteins for energy, which is why God later allowed man to eat meat as well.  Therefore, our meat consumption is a result of the inherent sin nature we received at the Fall, and if you are like me personally, it is common knowledge that meat tastes good!  Eating meat was a pleasure that many of the early Desert Fathers saw as a hindrance to spiritual growth if done in excess, which is why today particularly in the Eastern Church there are seasons of fasting (notably Lent) in which no meat is consumed to remind us of who we are to be in Christ.  It is also worth noting that after the Fall as well many beasts were affected by concupiscent nature, which is why some became carnivores and scavengers.   It is also worth noting in relation to this that before the Fall, all necessities of life were provided for by God and there was really no need to arouse lusts and desires of the flesh, as carnal concupiscence didn't yet exist.  However, at the Creation, that which was given to man of the fruits for eating were of what St. Lawrence calls "the nobler fruits," whereas the more "common" vegetation was reserved for the animals (Toth and Warkulwicz, p. 95).  This all being said, I need to remind you that it is not a sin to consume meat, and indeed your body may need to do so!   After the Fall, some very fundamental alterations in environmental factors (more so after the Flood) caused the human body (as well as that of animals) to adopt physically to different diets, etc.  Man could no longer live on a purely vegetarian diet as he did prior to the Fall, and for those over the centuries who attempt to do so for "health reasons," often it causes more harm than good.  Pure vegans run risks of serious nutritional deficiencies due to the fact that they deprive themselves of essential materials needed for physical development (Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions. Brandywine, MD:  New Trends Publishing, 2001. p. 354).  So, eating meat is not to be considered necessarily a curse of the Fall, but a product of the Fall that evidences God's mercy.

Returning to the subject of marriage, God instituted it as a sacramental covenant from the beginning and there are two things about this we need to understand:

1.  Grace was dispensed by God to procreate.
2.  After the Fall, it was for the survival of the species.

Now, God also endowed certain traits in both man and woman - known as "attraction factor" - to make this not only a necessity, but also a blessing to be enjoyed by the couple entering into this bond.  Animals don't have this to the degree humans have, because God desired more of humanity.  Animals procreate for survival only, but humans do so in a covenantal way to reflect supernatural reality in a physical, natural, way.  The union of the male and female in a matrimonial, conjugal bond speaks on so many levels, and God purposed that for man in such a way that the sex act become not merely procreative, but also pleasurable and holy.  Eve was taken from Adam initially when she was created, but then joined back to Adam in this covenantal act.  Again, it demonstrates that distinctiveness in gender, matrimony, and the deeper dimension of human procreativity are by divine decree as a reflection of the likeness of God.

In verse 31, the first chapter of Genesis closes with the words that "God saw all that He had made and it was very good."  The implication here was that Creation was "good exceedingly," meaning that God commends all the works of His Creation.  All individual works were good by nature, but collectively they are one and very good.  As St. Chrysostom notes, God created all things in sequence, providing us with a clear instruction about created things through the word of their Author.  This therefore prevents us from relying solely on our own reasoning (which can get us in trouble!) to explain origins, as God is the Creator and Sustainer of all.  St. Gregory of Nyssa elaborates this further by noting that everything created was subdivided and brought into order by inexpressable laws decreed by God Himself.  Therefore, the conclusion here is that the divine good can be perceived through Creation, going back to the Thomistic Law of Non-Contradiction we have referenced throughout which states that Nature and Revelation have the same Author, and cannot contradict each other.  The power of God, therefore, is a creative power, and therefore even if God is not seen, He is judged by His works.  As St. Ambrose notes, the order of the universe, its arrangement and its beauty, should move a man to love his Creator.  The Christological dimension to all this is that in the Sixth Day of Creation, we see Jesus coming as the Son of Man to re-form us in the likeness of God, thus perfecting the image of God we have via being qua being.

In conclusion, there are a few observations we should note.  First, we once had an eternal aspect to our being (likeness), and Adam and Eve were created with that aspect but lost it when they chose to fall from the grace God gave them.  However, at the point of salvation, when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord, we recover that aspect, although it is not going to be fully realized until the final Resurrection. As Dr. Morris notes, one important point about the "image of God" that was initially created is this - the mortal body that humanity is now born into after the terrible curse rendered by Genesis 3 must be "changed" into a suitable "immortal" body that will be compatible with the eternal body of the Lord Jesus Christ (Henry Morris III, The Book of Beginnings, Vol. I.  Dallas:  ICR, 2012. p. 143).  Our human body form is connected to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and as such is perfected by His sacrifice for us at Calvary.  The mortal body that humanity now has is in need of glorification therefore, because although as we have noted we retain the image of God in our being, concupiscence as a consequence of the Fall necessitates such a glorification to restore the likeness we once had.  The way, and key, to doing this is submission to God's will, and by taking to heart the petition of the Lord's Prayer we pray that "Thy will be done."  We have the choice to be that which God intended, and as a minister by the name of Mark Chironna once said, "Our present position doesn't determine our future potential."   Although that statement was meant to apply practically in this life, we also have the potential of living with God's likeness as part of us, but we must commit to follow Him to receive that.  Therefore, in the Creation narrative, we are not only educated in the history of our origins, but are reminded of our need for Jesus Christ in our lives to save us.  God bless you until the next lesson, where we will begin Genesis 2.