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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 9 - Genesis 2:7-17

As we continue in the second chapter of Genesis, we are talking about Adam's creation , and to be more specific, his formation.  There are actually two aspects to Adam's formation, one being physical and the other being supernatural.  The crux of this study will be exploring both of those in more detail.

In Genesis 2:7, the discussion centers on Adam's physical creation, and it says that God "formed him from the dust of the ground."  This is the first indication that there was a two-fold formation of the first man and of Creation in general, and they are as follows:

1.  The formation of the world.
2.  The formation of the resurrection of the dead.

St. Augustine, in one of his writings, affirms in this verse that man was formed from the earth, although Augustine translated the word as mud.  The word adam in Hebrew, as a matter of fact, comes from adamah, which means "dirt" or "clay."  So, what we have here then is that the physical form of Adam, the first man, had its origin in the dirt or mud.   Much of modern physics and biology actually confirms this, in that we are made up as bodies of mostly water, but then of several minerals which somehow generate life (we'll get there in a moment).  So, this recipe of mineral and water that makes up our physical being sort of confirms St. Augustine's statement about being formed from mud!  St. Gregory of Nyssa elaborates more on this by suggesting in his writings that the flesh was fashioned but the soul was created - to an extent, this could be said, but at the same time it means that God breathed the divine life of His spirit, which goes beyond natural life, into Adam at his creation.  Man's origins are humble (the dust) but also supernatural (God's breath of life).  The word here used is the Hebrew word nephesh, which denotes an immortal soul.  Bottom line is that man was made for something more than just living in a natural habitat, and that fact is what the whole legacy of salvation rests upon.  The dichotomy here therefore is that man is nothing (raised out of mud) but man is great.  It is the honor with which God created man that makes him unique among all Creation, and that honor is receiving the very nephesh of God Himself.




When God breathed his life into man's nostrils, man became a living being.  As Tertullian has pointed out, the soul has its origins in the breath (the pneuma) of God Himself, meaning it is immaterial due to supernatural origin.  St. Gregory of Nyssa then expounds on this, saying that the natural body and the supernatural soul both comprise the person, and they are an integrated whole.   St. Basil the Great notes that by this impartation of nephesh, God has placed a share of His grace into man's soul, in order that man might recognize the Imago Dei within himself.  This is a classic Thomistic example of how natural theology works, as in the creation of man, grace presupposes nature in order to perfect, heal, and elevate nature, and in the crown jewel of the created order (man), God exemplifies that well.  St. Gregory notes that man is distinctly created, unlike the animals, and the great detail used to document man's creation in Genesis 2 would suggest that there is an importance placed upon man's creation that no other created being has.   But, caution must be exercised to not misinterpret the soul as being somehow God's nature, as it is not - St. Augustine refuted that misunderstanding as well, as such an interpretation could result in a pantheistic cosmology, which would be heretical.   

From here, we now talk about the Garden of Eden some, as it has an importance to the discussion.  St.Ephrem the Syrian notes that the Garden was created on the third day as an icon of paradise, and as St. Augustine notes, it was made after man's creation to be his home, but as we'll see momentarily it was so much more than just that.  God "planting" the Garden, as St. Chrysostom writes, meant that God commanded its creation to be - like everything else, He spoke a word (Logos) and it was.  As we just have noted, Eden was meant to be more than just man's home.   Rather, it was meant as a sanctuary, a "holy place" where God was found.  It was, as Scott Hahn calls it, a covenantal space.  There are two things that Dr. Hahn pointed out recently in a class lecture that defines such a place, and they are as follows:

1. It is a place God reveals Himself.

2. It is always entered from the east.

The Garden, therefore, was a sanctuary, a precursor to the Temple, and as a covenantal space it had some significance.  We will be revisiting that in subsequent lessons as well, but suffice to say St.Cyprian of Carthage adds this allegorical dimension to Eden, while still affirming it as a literal place - he says that it is a representation (a typology if you will) of the Church, and that the "trees" within it represent the faithful believers.  This correlates with other passages in Scripture such as Romans 7:4 and John 15:5-8.  But, aside from allegory, God had also ordained this sanctuary called Eden as a holy place where He could be approached.  The very name Eden itself means "paradise," or "a place of delight," denoting its goodness and perfection (Judson Cornwall and Stelman Smith, The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names.  North Brunswick, NJ:  Bridge-Logos, 1998. p.63).  As such then, it mirrors both the heavenly throne room as well as the future Tabernacle, Temple, and even the Church.  Its location also reveals a lot in regard to this as well.


The location of the Garden of Eden is a discussion that has been taking place since the Patristic writings were first penned, and as a result even in the earliest days of the Church a variety of opinions and speculations emerged as to its actual location.  That it was a literal place was not a matter of debate, as the general consensus up until the Enlightenment era was that Eden existed.  The exact geographical location of Eden is not of any soteriological significance, but to consider its location one must take into account the whole Scriptural narrative, and in looking at where the majority of the setting of the Scriptures take place, one must conclude that Eden must have been located somewhere in the Middle East.  Here are a few theories that the Church Fathers proposed:

1.  Eden's borders stretched from the Danube River to the Euphrates, encompassing at its perimeters Greece, Persia, and Ethiopia (St. Ephrem the Syrian)

2. Eden was located in an area stretching from the Ganges River in India to the southernmost reaches of the Nile in Ethiopia - this view proposes that the Pishon River referred to the Ganges (St. Ambrose)

3. Eden was surrounded by a huge primordial sea, and where it rests is where the Ganges and Nile border today (St. John of Damascus).

4.  A purely allegorical dimension - the four rivers represent the Four Gospels that nourish us, the "fruitful trees" of the Church "garden."  (St. Cyprian of Carthage). 


St. Lawrence of Brindisi, whose commentary has played a big part in this study thus far, actually was unsure of the boundaries and did not speculate as to where they were, but rather did affirm that the land of Israel was part of it, although he also notes that the land of Hevila (modern Arabia) would be where the bulk of Eden was (Craig R. Toth and Victor Warkulwicz, ed.  St. Lawrence of Brindisi on Creation and the Fall.  Mount Jackson, VA:  Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, 2009. pp.117-118).  Piecing together elements from the above speculations, there seems to be a general consensus that the central aspect of Eden was centered upon the ancient Middle East, and at the center of that was Israel.  Please keep in mind here that when we are discussing Eden, it is not the same as your grandmother's tomato patch in the backyard, because we don't use that term "garden" to define this.  That is why I want to propose my own theory as to where Eden was, and I also want to center upon the two trees it talks about in 2:9.

I believe that that Church Fathers had the location pretty much centered upon a vast area extending roughly from where western India is today to the Mediterranean Basin, and then extending south to Ethiopia.  It is within this whole general area that the setting of all of Scripture, from the opening of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation, centers upon.  Like any sanctuary though, Eden would have had a "holy of holies," and I believe that this centered upon what is today modern Jerusalem.   In Genesis 2:9, it speaks of two trees in the Garden - one is called the Tree of Life, and the second is called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  We again visit the idea of sanctuary here, as Dr. Hahn in his lectures correctly (I believe) points out that Eden is indeed a garden sanctuary and that he speculates (correctly) that the holiest part of that sanctuary is on a mountain - hmmm!!  The interesting thing about that is when Jerusalem is mentioned in Scripture, there are actually two mountains of significance that play a part in salvation history - one is Mount Zion, where the Temple would stand, and the other is Mount Calvary, where Jesus would die on a Cross for our sins, thus completing the plan of salvation for mankind.  In Genesis 2:15, there are other indications that this is a sacred sanctuary, in that God charges Adam with doing two things.  The NKJV translates these as "tending" and "keeping" the Garden, but by that God is not necessarily talking about planting and weeding it.  Rather, as Dr, Hahn points out in his book First Comes Love (New York: Doubleday, 2002), the two terms for these words from the Hebrew, abodah and shamar, denote much more than that.  They also imply a priestly role that God was endowing to Adam, and these words are covenantal language (Hahn, p. 56) which would imply offering sacrificial service to God and guarding the sanctuary from defilement (Hahn, Reasons to Believe. New York:  Doubleday, 2007. p. 144).  Part of protecting from defilement was to obey God's one command - don't eat from the Tree of Knowledge!  It is here we now pick up discussion of the trees.

I believe the two trees were literal trees in a literal location, but like any symbol they point beyond themselves to a greater truth.   The Tree of Life, I believe, would have been located on what was later known as Mount Calvary, in that life came through Christ.  It is a symbol of grace.  The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, on the other hand, I believe was located on Mt. Zion, where the Temple stood.  The Temple in this case symbolizes the law, and as we'll see in Genesis 3 a knowledge of the law brings a greater accountability to uphold it.  St. Jerome seems to concur with that thesis as well, for he notes in one of his writings that the Tree of Life indeed does prefigure Christ and wisdom.  God specifically commands that man not eat of the Tree of Knowledge, as its consequences would be severe if he did so.  This will have significance later, as we will learn that God placed the tree there as an early test for Adam.   The fact of these two trees are therefore intimately connected to the location of Eden as a whole.

As we continue the next study, we will see how the first woman came to be, and how her creation completes the task of Creation and then the story begins to pick up more.