Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Theology and Ecology in Genesis

The two creation accounts of Genesis present radically different pictures of God alongside radically different pictures of the world and our relationship to it.

The first of the two creation accounts is written from the divine heavenly perspective looking down; it is called the creation of ‘heaven and earth’. God, the distant cosmic architect, masterminds the construction work as his carefully designed blueprint, a marvel of symmetry and patterned order, is brought into existence. The pinnacle of the cosmic mover’s creative enterprise is the human being, ‘male and female’, created ‘in his own image’. ‘Image’ refers to exactly what we have seen of God thus far; he dominates and controls creation, everything has been brought into existence to serve him. Thus man’s role is similar, “fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth”. Man must subdue and master the earth, just as God subdues and masters him.

The second of the two creation accounts is written from the human earthly perspective looking up; it is called the making of ‘earth and heaven’. As such, it describes the ‘nitty-gritty’ of real human experience; the world is not created in an orderly fashion; the creation of light and dark, sun and moon or even the seas is not mentioned. The narrative begins by noting that ‘there was no man to till the soil’, so in order to give the earth a caretaker, Hashem ‘formed man from the dust of the earth’. Hashem is depicted as a doting human parent, strolling through the garden tending to the needs of his creatures; sometimes he makes mistakes and sometimes he succeeds. Man is instructed to ‘till and tend’ the garden; he is assisted by the animals and the woman, who are almost his equals. Unlike in the first creation account, man is discouraged from becoming like Hashem. Like any parent, Hashem wishes to distance his child from too much knowledge and responsibility; man is created from the humble soil and instructed not to eat from the tree that would make him like a god. Man’s transgression inevitably results in the loss of his childhood innocence; he now has the responsibility to provide for himself.

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