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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 10 - The Creation of Woman (Genesis 2:18-25)

In this section, the other important factor in humanity's existence is introduced, and that is the female of the species called woman.  As we will see also, the typology of woman also prefigures the Church - again, God uses a tangible reality to illustrate a greater spiritual truth, and in the creation of woman we as Christians see the union of Christ and His Bride, the Church Catholic.  However, not only is there a typology of the Church, but also there is an affirmation of natural law as well, being God established natural law.  Now, it is not "politically correct" to say this (as if I care anyway!) but God created man to have one mate, and that one mate is a woman only - the sacramental union of one man + one woman is God's law, and anyone who tries to redefine that based on their own agendas and feelings is incorrect in God's eyes, because in doing so it violates personhood and the natural order as God created it.  So, in this study, we will be encountering some basic and familiar, yet now in this day and age of "tolerance" and "political correctness," controversial material.  But, it shows us that the family is the primary sacramental and covenantal union in God's created order, and that all human life starts and is shaped by the family unit as God ordained it.

In the first part of this passage, we see a continuation of the Hebraic concepts of abodah and shamar we talked about in the last lesson, meaning that Adam had been given a priestly duty by God to minister and protect the sanctity of the sanctuary that was Eden, and as part of that endowment God gives Adam the task of naming all the animals in verse 19.  Although it is seemingly out of context with the theme of the rest of this passage, it becomes significant when it comes to verse 20, in that Adam came to a realization that all the animals had mates, yet he did not, so God declares in verse 18 that "It is not good that man should be alone," and therefore God will create a mate for Adam.

Classic painting of God forming Eve from Adam's side

In his writings, the great Church Father Tertullian proclaims that the woman is indeed a blessing, and as such she is called to be a parakleo, a "help-meet," to man, and as such we also see a Trinitarian typology coming together in the marriage relationship, as that Greek term is also one of the terms used in the New Testament to describe the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity.  This first created woman is also a prefigurement of the Virgin Mary as well.   Like the original Eve was a "help-meet" to Adam, so Mary as a "New Eve" participates in the redemptive plan of her Son, Jesus, the "New Adam," (Fr. Stephano Manelli, "The Mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Old Testament, in Miravalle, Mark, Mariology: a Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons.  Goleta, CA:  Queenship Publishing, 2007. pp. 8-9) although this is seen more in a negative dimension in Genesis 3 which will be discussed more thoroughly in future lessons of this series.  We will be picking up more of the story of Eve later in this study, but for now let us focus on Adam's naming of the animals.

Adam names the animals

In verses 19 and 20, the account is given of how Adam names the animals, and it is a blow to these evolutionists out there, because the first man had intelligence to name every creature on earth.  He also spoke every language - there was only one!  Although Adam was free to go where he pleased, as God gave him the dominion over the earth, his original home was within the holy sanctuary of Eden, as Adam dwelt literally in God's very presence there.  An ancient Patristic writer, Severian of Gabala, actually ponders this question - were there no habitable places for humans outside of Eden at this point?  I don't think that was the case personally, because as we studied in Genesis 1, God made the whole earth, and He said "it is good!"  It is a more likely scenario that the animals were led by God Himself to Adam so that he could name them, and afterward they returned to their own homes.  As St. Augustine notes, the animals had a created nature given them by God, and therefore they knew His voice and obeyed it.  At this point, prior to the Fall, there is a complete harmony between man and beast, but man is still in charge, as this was God's order.  You will wonder as you read this why naming animals was such a big deal, and more so, why Adam names them?  As Chrysostom notes, the names Adam gave them were authoritative, in that they remain until now.  However, there is also an allegorical dimension to this whole thing as well, being that St. Ambrose proposes that the animals are metaphorical references to human passions. It is a case of flesh vs. spirit, and God called the passions, like he did the animals, to man's attention in order that he may better identify what they are. Therefore, even today animal traits are associated with certain behaviors - ever hear your mother or another relative talk about someone being as "stubborn as a mule," "wise as a fox," or "dirty as a pig?"  Even in Scripture, Jesus uses metaphorical references to animals at the end of Mark's Gospel when He admonishes the disciples to be "wise as serpents yet harmless as doves."   In other places He called the Pharisees and Sadducees a "brood of vipers," in Matthew 23:33, and he refers to the king Herod Agrippa as "a fox" in Luke 13:32.  He even uses animal metaphors to refer to Himself - "Lion of Judah," "Lamb of God," etc.  Whether St. Ambrose was right in the context of Genesis 2 is a matter of debate to leave to more qualified Biblical scholars than myself, but at the same time his reasoning contains much wisdom.  Any rate, the animals receive their names, and now the story switches back in verse 21 to Eve's debut in the narrative.

The picture of the creation of Eve is something that is really a beautiful expression of the marriage covenant, as you can see in the above artwork of Adam and Eve together.   Thinking about this story, especially if the reader is married, should be enough to remind one of their own marriage covenant with their spouse - it is beautiful because again God ordered and ordained it, and it is His will that man and woman be joined together in perfect unity.  God instantly created the beauty that is woman out of the bare bone of Adam's extracted rib (note Ss. Ephrem and Chrysostom) and to be honest, even the ugliest woman by anyone's standard still bears the trait of that beauty in some way.  At this point, I want to take a detour from that discussion because in this is also a Christological picture as well we will briefly discuss.

If we turn to John's Gospel, in the 19th chapter and beginning with verse 34 and going through 35, we have the account of Christ's Passion, and in particular one small detail - at His "giving up the ghost" to use KJV language, Christ was pierced in His right side by a Roman spear, and when this happened blood and water came out.   This is a beautiful picture of Christ as the "Second Adam," for just as Adam birthed Eve from his side, so the "New Adam," Jesus, gave birth to His Bride (the Church) from His side.  Allegorically, the symbolism here is heavily sacramental:

1.  Blood - a symbol of the Eucharist, the crown of the Sacraments
2.  Water - the fount of Baptism, the rite by which one enters the Church. 

Therefore, from the pierced side of Jesus came the initiative Sacraments (Baptism and Eucharist) which birth the Church and its members.  As the Sacraments are one of the "four pillars" of catechesis, it is important to see sacramental typology as well in the Creation account.  

Coming back to the story of Adam and Eve, this too was a sacramental union - God willed that the two (male and female) be established as one.   This very early Scriptural understanding of the marriage covenant affirms the sacramental institution and sacrament of Holy Matrimony as being only between one man and one woman.  And, this is why, despite the recent push for a bastardization of that covenantal union called "same-sex marriage," the Church affirms only this matrimonial union of one man and one woman as being God's plan.  For the same reason, that is why other sexual deviancies such as incest, polygamy, bestiality, and other practices are forbidden for Christians to participate in.  I now want to share with you a quote from the late lay Catholic theologian/philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, who in his 1929 text Marriage: the Mystery of Faithful Love (London, 1929) said on page 5 the following:

"Marriage has been chosen as the image of the perfect union between the soul and Christ because in marriage, likewise, the center and core is love.   No other earthly community is constituted so exclusively in its very substance by mutual love." 

That being said, let's talk about more specifics of Eve's creation.  For one, despite her being fashioned from Adam's rib, Adam in his unfallen state felt no pain, as at this point Adam still possessed what are called the preternatural graces, or the "four I's:"

1.  Immortality - there was no suffering or death at this point.
2.  Impassibility - a holistic unity
3.  Integrity - no sin or even concupiscence.
4.  Infused knowledge - Adam knew everything he needed or wanted to know.

And, as such, Eve was made in essence to help man in good works (as a parakleo) - this means that when alone, Adam was in a state of grace, but Eve brought a glory to Adam to this point he didn't have.  The name Eve in reality means "to give or sustain life" (Cornwall and Smith, The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names, p. 74).  So, what we have here is a message in the marriage covenant - the woman gives life to man, and that too is a preamble of the process of childbirth.  So, Eve, as a helper, was called alongside to bring life to humanity in union with her husband Adam.  In this respect as well, we also see a picture of the Trinity in that the Father, who has ultimate dominion, is joined to the Spirit who together make the reality of Jesus the Son possible.  It is also a picture of the co-redemptive role of Mary in salvation history as well.  In her capacity as the perfect mate for Adam, Eve was superior to every animal as she was also created in God's image.  Therefore, when we as Christians marry, we have a model to follow in living out the marriage covenant we enter into as well. 

God's transmission of this account of Eve's creation to Moses was very detailed, and this is something not lost on the Fathers.   St. Ephrem, for instance, proposes that when God caused a deep sleep to come over Adam, Adam actually dreamed about what was happening although he was in a catatonic state.  This was, as Tertullian has proposed, the first instance of man's dreaming.  A few centuries later, the great Doctor of the Church, St. Lawrence of Brindisi, who himself was well-versed in the Judaic rabbinic writings on Genesis, noted that there were a couple of Hebrew words used here in this context - sheynah belithi chazeqah, which literally translates as "sleeping without strength."  St Lawrence communicates this interpretation via his reading of a medieval rabbi named Ibn Ezra, who in turn derives his interpretation from the Septuagint translation of the Greek word extasin, which literally translates as "a retreat of the mind," and is the same Greek root of the English word ecstasy (Craig Toth and Victor Warkulwicz, ed.  St. Lawrence of Brindisi on the Creation and the Fall.  Mount Jackson, VA:  Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, 2009.  pp. 126-127).  In other words, it was a trancelike state in which Adam was overcome with sleep.  This dramatic "birth" of Eve serves to remind us as modern readers that the woman is one with the man in the marriage covenant just as Christ is one with His Church.  You begin to see here that marriage is a commitment that God established and takes seriously.  You may ask though - how were Adam and Eve married when no religious institution existed to sanctify it?  The very easy answer to that was that they were in the sanctuary of the Garden, and God was with them, and with Him blessing their union personally, how much more sanctified can it get??

Verse 25 is of interest, especially in the carnal world we live in today.  People read this verse sometimes with an immature attitude and they snicker and scoff at it because of what it says - "They were naked and not ashamed."  To such immature idiots who would read this so irreverently, I say this - GROW UP!!  Before sin and corruption entered the picture in Genesis 3, man still had a preternatural nature (note the "Four I's" above) and therefore it was not offensive to be naked before one another or before God.  The reason for that, as St. Ephrem proposes, is that they were "clothed" in the glory of God Himself, the Shekinah if you will.  There is a picture here that is a typological image of the sacrament of Baptism in that when this sacrament was dispensed in the early Church, catechumens were baptized naked in order to remind them of their former nakedness in Eden (Paradise) that this verse speaks of - a good illustration of that can be found in Fr. Aidan Kavanaugh's excellent essay entitled "A Rite of Passage," which is readily available as a PDF download that is easily found with a simple Google search online.  However, it also symbolizes another fact - before the Fall, man and woman were not weighed down by bodily needs as they were one together.  There is also an anagogical hope in this as well, for it anticipates our own resurrection (or Rapture, if you will) in glorified bodies as the faithful Remnant Bride of Christ.  This all results not from simplicity but rather from the incorruptible innocence and the gift of what is called original justice (Toth and Warkulwicz, p. 134). 

To just state some concluding thoughts to this study, I want to make a humorous but totally accurate observation for you to comprehend - the first man (Adam) was literally the first human to give birth! So, indeed, at one point in time man gave birth to a woman - think about that!  In this account, which we accept from the point of view of this study as true, there are also a lot of Christological and sacramental dimensions to the creation and existence of our "first parents," Adam and Eve.   Finally, before the Fall, man and woman had a more complete union with one another and with God, and the sacramental system instituted in the Church by Christ and His Apostles reflects this in the new creation as well.  The reason is that this New Covenant was instituted by the "Second Adam" Himself, Jesus Christ.  However, sin and death would corrupt, although not destroy, this sanctity, and as we see in Genesis 3, it carried with it many consequences.  See you next time. 

Quotes from the Church Fathers used in this study and the previous lesson are taken from Andrew Louth, ed. and Thomas Oden, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture - Old Testament I:  Genesis 1-11 (Downer's Grove, IL:  Intervarsity Press, 2001), pages 56-66.