As You Read this week, watch for the confession that God is Creator-Redeemer-Sustainer of all-that-is. Watch for the confession of Israel and Christianity that all-that-is IS good. It was only later in Christian theology that flesh took on a negative connotation; Platonic philosophy and Greek thought taught dualism: Flesh is ‘bad’ v. Spirit is ‘good.’ The witness of Scripture, however, honors the inherent goodness of the Creation. (In Scripture it is never “nature” or the “environment; it is “Creation” created by the Creator.)
As You Read Genesis 1 and 2, watch for the differences in the two Creation stories; they are different from each other by design. Note how God’s name is different, the order of creation is different, the theology is different. Some students of the Bible are troubled by these seeming contradictions, but when we read the stories side by side—not as scientific reports but rather as theological reflections—then we recognize the beauty of the diverse poetic ways that Genesis describes the Beginnings. (Also note the word play: genesis, generate, beginnings…)
Watch too for the differences in the two stories of the beginnings of the humans. This is rich; I once spent months studying just these two chapters and it completely changed my understanding of how men and women relate appropriately to one another – in the home, in society and in the church. In the first story, there is no hint of patriarchy or hierarchy; the man and woman are created at the same time and given equal responsibility for the care of the Garden. In the second story, man is created and then later woman is shaped from a rib bone. It’s hard to see the Hebrew word plays when we read chapter 2 in English, but recognizing the puns gives the story whole new meaning.
For example, the word “man” is the word “human;” it does not designate gender. Only after the woman comes along does the text differentiate male and female, ish and ishah. I like to think of the possibility of one holistic being breathed into life by the Creator and then divided into two beings – because “it’s not good for a human to be alone.” I like to think of God as a Community of Being and so if we think of humans as created in God’s image, then we can see the deep importance of human community.
Another example: the word “adam” is a word play that designates where this one came from: the “adam” came from “adamah,” the ground, the soil, the earth. We might get the pun better if we gave this first human the name “Clay.”
We will get to chapter 3 next week so don’t rush to the “sin” story. Spend this week pondering the beauty and goodness of creation and the rich, multivalent relationship of Creation and Creator.
As You Read Psalms 33 and 104, enjoy the beautiful poetry. Especially appreciate Psalm 33: “by the word of the Lord the heavens were made … God spoke and it came to be …” You will see John’s Prologue tap into this language of “word.”
As You Read Proverbs 8, consider the lovely Hebrew anthropomorphic poetry. Wisdom is a character who is said to partner with the Creator from before the beginning. Hold this image together with John’s image of Logos. Hebrew and Greek words carry a sense of gender and I love how the “femininity” of Wisdom couples with the “masculinity” of Word. It’s a kind of yin/yang wholeness portrayed in this ancient way of thinking about the meaning of creation.
As You Read John 1-8, especially John’s Prologue in 1:1-18, notice the numerous images, symbols and figures John incorporates into this gospel. Images of word and light and life particularly hearken back to the Genesis stories. And watch for John’s continued honoring of “flesh,” humanity. The theology of incarnation is unique among all the world religions. Islam locates God’s “presence” in the Koran. Judaism pictured God’s presence (“glory”) in the Temple. Christianity proclaims God’s presence in the unique life of Jesus.
You also may want to read Charlotte’s blog on John’s Jesus on the Living in The Story Musings page.
As You Read Colossians, let the soaring poetry get into your soul. The letter to the church at Colossae was written either by Paul or by one his second-generation disciples continuing his ministry. The Christology is cosmic, proclaiming Christ as the one who “holds all things together” (1:5); we would call this a very “high” Christology. At the same time, Colossians also proclaims the mystery of incarnation. “In Christ, the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily…” (2:9) It’s profound, remarkable and full of mystery.
Gail Caulfield’s ceramic Adam and Eve statue located at Villa Montalvo.
Sophia, Divine Wisdom, by Mary Plaster