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.