Summary: Year A. First Sunday of Lent February 17, 2002 Gen 2: 7-9; 3: 1-7 Title: “Sin is the wrong use of free will given by God.”
Year A. First Sunday of Lent
February 17, 2002 Gen 2: 7-9; 3: 1-7
Title: “Sin is the wrong use of free will given by God.”
There are two accounts of creation in Genesis. The first account Genesis 1: 1-2:4a, called the “priestly,” account because of the theology behind it, deals with the origin of the universe as a whole. It pretty much follows the science of its day Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Babylonian and has creation unfold in stages or “days.” In this account, humans do not appear on stage until Act Six or Day Six. Their creation is just another item in a cosmic sequence of majestic acts performed by God. In the second account Geneses 2:4b-3, called the “Yahwistic” account and has a different theology behind it than the “priestly” one, humans occupy center stage, their creation is Act One. The earth, not the universe, is the backdrop and human relationships are the focus. They have gone awry because of sin. Sin is the wrong use of free will given by God and has resulted in alienation from God, from animals, from nature, from fellow human beings, even man from woman. All human woes stem from human beings’ refusal to accept the limits God has placed upon them, limits he allows them to freely violate, but not without their ensuing consequences.
In Chapter two verse seven, the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. There is a play on words here. In Hebrew the word for man as human being is ‘adam from which the name “Adam,” comes, a noun, not really a name, and the word for clay or earth is ‘adamah. “Clay,” is clearly a symbol for mortality. “Man,” means “human,” not “male” Hebrew ‘ish. As yet, woman female “man,” has not come upon the scene and there is no differentiation of the sexes. “Formed,” describes the work of a potter fashioning clay. God and later the snake is depicted as though he were human, speaking human language, appearing humanlike, molding clay, planting trees, breathing. The technique is anthropomorphic, non-humans cast in human forms.
And blew into his nostrils the breath of life: This is equivalent to what we read in the Priestly account in 1:27 about man being created in God’s own image. Humans not only enjoy life as a gift from God, but they enjoy a share in God’s own life, the life God enjoys. This privileged life is not shared by, or true of, other life forms.
In Chapter two verse eight a garden in Eden: Hebrew `eden means “pleasure,” and connotes bliss and contentment. “Garden,” represents order and completeness. All the human being needs has been provided for him, with the exception of woman, to be given later. The author is describing God’s original intention for humans before they interrupted it by sinning. He is not describing an actual historical situation. The garden’s “order,” is ruined by the chaos human sin brings in its wake. This is no more historically factual than God’s molding clay like a potter, planting trees or the talking snake. Sin ruins everything and every relationship. For instance, God originally intended work to give humans a purpose for living, but sin turned it into drudgery, a blessing into a curse.
Today many realize, that work is the reason for life, that is doing the work God gives one to do, is the reason for being.
In Chapter two, verse nine, various trees…delightful to look at and good for food: God can create things for more than one purpose including humans. For instance, trees can be both sources of beauty to delight the human being and also sources of food to sustain the human creature. The tree as a symbol for “source,” is very common, found in the art forms of most cultures, ancient and modern. Thus the tree would represent the source or root, of a family or people, with its branches representing descendants and relatives. A tree could also represent truth, with its branches representing the various forms truth takes in the arts and sciences.
The tree of life: This particular tree is not highlighted in the story. It is mentioned to give another example of “limits,” boundaries not to be crossed. In Chapter three verse twenty-two, it is mentioned again where the eating of it would empower humans to “live forever.” The expulsion from the garden removes that as a temptation or possibility.
The tree of the knowledge of good and bad: The author does not elaborate on what he means. Surely, nearly all humans have “knowledge,” of good and bad in the sense of right and wrong. Today we call that knowledge, that is, that ability to discern, “conscience.” God did not proscribe that or limit it. The tree represents a limit, a boundary. Boundaries differ from barriers. Boundaries can be invisible, such as the boundary between one country and another. Barriers need to be climbed or removed. The tree is a limit in the sense of boundary, a line not to be crossed. As such it raises the key question posed by the story: Will humans accept God’s terms for a relationship with him or not? And what are the consequences if they do not?